The Murder of Curtis Huntzinger

In early May of 1990, 14 year old Blue Lake California resident, Curtis Huntzinger tells his mother that family friend, and his sometime employer, Stephen (sometimes found as Steven) Daniel Hash has been molesting him. Nancy Huntzinger apparently did as any parent would do and contacted  the police, but when Curtis was interviewed on May 11th, he apparently recanted what he had stated to his mother and nothing was really done.  On May 18th Curtis was last seen leaving his sisters home.  He was reported missing the following day.  Investigators were certain that Curtis had run away and insisted to the public that no "foul play" was suspected in his disappearance.  Their proof, so to speak was that Curtis had had some issues at school and a "recent minor brush with the law."  While I found several references to the issue of the "brush with the law," I was never able to find anything specific to verify this, unless of course they were discussing the interview they had with Curtis just the week before.

Apparently, acting as any mother would, Nancy contacted the police several times about her son's case but nothing seemed to be getting done.  She would also contact anytime she heard a body had been found to ensure it was not that of her son.  Finally, seemingly having enough, Nancy and her supporters organized a protest outside Blue Lake's City Hall in May of 1993, demanding the case be looked into.  Her son had now not been seen for 3 years and police were still not taking the case seriously it seemed.  On May 14, 1993 it was announced that a "multi-agency" task force would be formed to look into the case.  That did not last long as they disbanded the task force in early August of 1993 saying they found no evidence of foul play once again.

Then in February of 1999 a prison inmate named, Thomas Michael Fox, who was serving time for the murder of an 11 year old boy confessed that he had been involved with Curtis' murder and named Stephen Hash as also being involved. According to Fox, he (Fox) had shot Curtis in Hash's home and that he and Hash and buried him together.  Later when Fox was again interviewed he recanted the confession claiming that he was only trying to get the police to look into the case some more.  Then in April of 1999 Nancy Huntzinger went to the police and said that Hash had confessed to her that he had killed Curtis and even took him to where he buried him.  Hash refused to speak to law enforcement. Having this information the police did finally do a search on Hash's home and the area in which Nancy Huntzinger stated Hash told her he had buried Curtis' body.  Cadaver dogs were taken to search the area.  In the midst of the search some bones were found and it was initially believed that Curtis' body may have been found but it was later discovered that the bones were from an animal and not human.  Once again the case went cold.

In May of 2001 Hash's wife Deann told investigators that he had confessed to killing Curtis but apparently they did not take this completely serious since it was another three months before the FBI talked to Hash.  At this point he did not deny killing Curtis but refused to incriminate himself.  He indicated that he planned to obtain a lawyer and turn himself into authorities but that never seemed to happen.

It would be another five and a half years before a DA investigator named Wayne Cox found the case and decided to look into it on his spare time.  Then in May of 2008 the Blue Lake Police Department was disbanded after their chief was arrested on rape charges (he would later be acquitted) and the county DA's office picked up on the case.  Wayne Cox was still investigating also.  Cox would talk again to Deann Hash, who was now divorced from Stephen, in November of 2008.  It was then that Cox felt they had enough to obtain an arrest warrant on Hash.  The warrant was executed on December 3, 2008 and by the day's end Stephen Hash was arrested and charged with the murder of Curtis Huntzinger after he had given a confession.  

According to his interview in December of 2008 Hash claimed that on the day of May 18, 1990, Curtis had come to his home and an argument ensued about the molestation allegations and that he had picked up a barbell and had hit Curtis over the head killing him.  He took investigators to the place in which he buried him.  It was the same place he had shown Nancy Huntzinger in 1999 that had been search with cadaver dogs.  This time they took a metal detector and were able to recover Curtis' body.  In 1990 when Hash had buried Curtis there it had been an area in which a lot of logging had gone on and looked much different than it did in 2008 when his body was recovered.  By then the redwood trees had regrown and in order to recover his body investigators were forced to excavate a 400 lb ball of roots from the trees that had entangled around his body.  

Stephen Hash was able to quickly negotiate a "sweet" deal for himself.  The Statute of Limitations for voluntary manslaughter had long ran it's course but he was allowed to plead guilty for that charge and receive a sentence of 11 years. The speed in which it was done is nothing short of amazing.  His plea and sentencing occurred in January of 2009 a mere month after his confession and the recovery of Curtis' body.  It was said that Nancy Huntzinger no longer cared what Hash received and had even said she would be fine with "time served." She was simply relieved to know not just what happened to her son but to be able to have his body for burial.  I have to say, in my opinion, it seems that after all the blunders and in activity by the police with their insistence that foul play had not been involved that they did not hurry this case through the courts so they could call it a win and hope no one noticed their over sights. Considering that he garnered a sentence of 11 years in 2009 it is safe to say that Hash is no longer in prison.  Unlike the Indiana Department of Corrections, the California sites only show current inmates and no other information.  Considering I could not find Stephen Hash it apparently means that he is no longer an inmate, at least in the California prison system.  

Nancy Huntzinger did file a civil suit against Stephen Hash and was awarded 3.6 million dollars.  I tried really looking over this suit but it appears that Hash was the only person mentioned and it was a default judgment as he did not respond to the suit.  I found it a bit odd that there were no other defendants in this suit, although honestly there may have been in the beginning when it was filed.  In my honest opinion, although obviously Hash was the perpetrator and the murderer of her child, Nancy Huntzinger deserved to file against many others involved who refused to take a role or actively investigate the murder of her child when so much evidence seemed apparent.  I saw many comments on articles and such that people felt that Hash got a "pass" with the deal that he made and got off extremely easy.  I cannot argue this point as I do feel it is true, but I feel as if the investigators also got the same.  They were able to ignore the obvious signs that foul play had indeed occurred and not investigate this as a murder.  They only formed a "task force" after being backed into a corner three years after Curtis' disappearance and even then only had the task force active for a period of three months after once again deciding foul play was not involved and proclaiming he had simply ran away .... again.  Then nine years after the murder they received word he had confessed and although on the surface they appeared to investigate it seems like little was done and just allowed the prime suspect to walk away.  Two years later there is word he confessed to someone else, and once again they have the prime suspect in their sights and they let him walk away.  For over 18 years they forced Curtis' mother to fight for justice for her child and despite all the evidence they had nothing was done until Hash confessed, which in my opinion was nothing short of a lie when it came to his story as to what happened.  They then allowed the man to plead guilty to a charge that had long since run it's course and gave a man 11 years for a crime of murder (despite them calling it voluntary manslaughter) against a 14 year old child.  Where was the justice in this case?  


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