In every case in which there has been a conviction at some point I make my way to the state (or federal) Department of Corrections website to get information. Generally it is one of the last things I do, but not always. Every website is different as far as much or as little you are required to input before you can get results. As with everything some are better than others in the way they work and the information they give. In this case I had done a little research, but not a lot before I checked the Oregon Department of Corrections. This state allowed me to get away with only entering a persons last name. When I put in Guzek I came up not only with Randy, who obviously I was looking for, but also a Joel. At this point in my research I only knew that Randy's father, who I did not know his name, had helped him hide stolen items after he committed his crime. I clicked on the Joel once I had gathered the information I needed for Randy, expecting charges something like receiving stolen property or maybe even obstruction of justice. Those types of charges were there but there were also charges of sodomy, rape and incest. It was later in my research that I confirmed that Joel was in fact Randy's father and the horror stories that came along with it.
It seems that Joel Guzek was really no stranger to the law or to the neighborhood in which he lived. While Randy maintained an outward appearance as being a good student and all around nice guy, the Guzek's were known around their neighborhood as the house and family to stay away from. In the early part of 1987 Randy started dating sixteen year old Anne Houser but it did not last long. Anne had come to live with her aunt and uncle, Rod and Lois Houser just after Christmas in Terrebonne Oregon. It is unclear as to whether Rod Houser knew of the Guzek reputation or he just simply did not like the young man dating his niece. Anne had come to live with them to make a new start. She had not been a bad girl but described a bit as a “wild child” and she was there to make a change. By February Randy and Anne were no longer dating and most say that Randy held resentment not just against Anne but also her aunt and uncle.
On the night of June 28, 1987 eighteen year old Randy and two of his friends, Mark Wilson and Donald Cathey were hanging out. They made a plan to rob a house that they thought some valuable jewelry could be found. This does not appear to have been the first attempt they had ever made or something that the Guzek family frowned upon. His father apparently had no issue with stealing of any kind and seemed to not even care who saw him. One time he walked into a grocery store, filled the basket with steaks and walked out the front door. It was said that he would put his kids in Goodwill collection bins to steal clothes or whatever else he wanted. Donald Cathey would say that before they got tot he home Randy handed him a knife and told him to cut the throat of the victim at the home. Their plan failed however when they got to the house and decided there were too many lights on in the home and too many cars in the drive.
After their failed efforts one of the boys mentioned the Houser home. Whether it was Randy, or one of the other boys who knew how Randy felt about them, is unclear. The three boys headed back to Randy's home and got a few guns and headed out to the Houser home. Randy would go up to the door and ring the doorbell and bang on the door until Rod Houser answered. The two stood at the door and argued for a few seconds and then Randy yelled “Do it.” It was then that Mark Wilson emerged with a .22 rifle and began firing. Rod Houser would be hit in excess of twenty times. By this time it seems that Lois had made her way down the stairs and Randy went after her. He began firing the .32 he had at her and chased her up the stairs cornering her in a closet. Some research indicted that she was hit three times where other things stated it was four. There were also reports that the couple was also stabbed but I could not find a lot on that.
After killing Rod and Lois Houser the three boys ransacked the house and took things, including a ring on Lois' finger. They stashed their car and took off. Joel Guzek would help them hide the items they had taken in various places.
After spending what seemed like forever researching this case I was unable to completely determine just how authorities were led to the three boys. This was due to the fact that Randy Guzek's case itself has taken many turns. He was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to death in 1988. However while the courts upheld his conviction they overturned the sentence.....three times total. He would have a sentencing trial in 1991, 1997 and again in 2010. In 2014 it was attempted once again but the courts ruled in 2015 that the sentence would stand. Again, I did a lot of digging and was not really able to determine just what grounds all of the others had been overturned on. In the 2010 effort the defense was arguing that during the sentencing trial Randy had worn a stun belt and that it prevented his ability to concentrate as well as assist his attorneys. They also argued that it affected his demeanor which in turn gave the jurors a misconception of him. The court argued that Guzek had worn the stun belt on other occasions at re-sentencing hearings and that it had never been objected to, hence they were not addressing it then.
Aside from finding the appeal decision from 2015 I was able to find where a case law was made. If you do not know what that means, it pertains to a ruling in which is definitively given the right to use in other cases. Of course prosecutors and defense attorneys will often cite rulings in other cases but they do not always mean the current judge can, or do they have to, agree. When it comes to cases in which case law is established they basically make the rules. In Oregon v Guzek 546 U.S. 517 (2006) the courts ruled that the eighth amendment (the one pertaining to excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment), does not grant an defendant facing the death penalty the right to bring new evidence of innocence during a sentencing trial that had not been presented at trial. In my opinion I would have thought this was a law long before 2006 but apparently not. While I could not find specifics on this I can only gander to guess that at one of the re-sentencing trials granted to Randy Guzek his defense attempted to continue to proclaim his innocence (he would claim he was at home) to the new jury that would decide his fate.
By all appearances it seems that both Donald Cathey and Mark Wilson confessed to the crime and pleaded guilty. I did not find specifics and the Department of Corrections seemed a little vague but it appears that Wilson pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated murder and one count of murder while Cathey pleaded guilty to two counts of murder. They both received life sentences, however Wilson's was without parole whereas Cathey is eligible starting in 2022.
I have often said a few things in my blogs that I feel bare repeating here. First, I am neither an advocate for or against the death penalty but I feel it should be reserved for the most violent offenders when there is absolutely no question as to the guilt of the defendant. I have also said there is a very very thin line between and excuse and a reason. Both of these statements apply to this case in some way. First, it is clear that Randy Guzek is guilty of this crime and while it was extremely violent in nature there have been cases much worse than this one where death is an option but not given. Secondly, I have to agree with the defense in Randy's fourth re-sentencing trial. He argued to the jurors that his client deserved life without parole and by giving him that sentence they would stop the appeals process in this case. Every defendant is granted automatic appeals when it comes to a death sentence. This case has cost the state and county a lot of money as it is. And, whether people want to believe it or not it costs more to house a death row inmate than a prisoner for life. In my opinion by the third overturn of the sentencing the prosecution should have attempted to just make a deal for life without parole and left the case alone. But of course they did not.
Then there comes the difference between an excuse and a reason. When a defendant is convicted of a crime and a sentence is to be decided the prosecution gets to present “aggravating” factors while the defense can present “mitigating” factors. In essence the prosecution gets to tell the jury all the things that make the crime worse be it from the criminal history of the defendant that may have not been presented at the trial, to stressing the specifics of the crime that are especially heinous. On the other side the defense gets to tell the good things about the defendant or give reasons as to why they may have become the person they did.
Of course the prosecution used the fact that Rod Houser was killed not only for really no other reason than the hostility that Randy Guzek had for him but also to the extent that he was killed since he was shot over twenty times. Although, let's be fair, when it came to Rod it was not Randy behind the trigger of the gun. However, he did literally chase Lois Houser down and he was behind that trigger. Not to mention it was said that after killing her it was Randy that removed her ring from her finger. It appears that during his trial Randy had also faced charges of rape and incest against his younger sister. It was said that once the death sentence was given those two charges were dropped but it does appear the evidence was presented in court. This was not something that Randy did alone. It was as if he was groomed to do this. Remember, there's there line of excuse and reason. I am not going to sit here and make an excuse for any of Randy's behavior but I am going to give you a reason.
Randy's parents, Joel and Kathleen were married when Kathleen was fifteen years old. They remained married for twenty-four years. Joel and Kathleen had three boys, Joe, Danny and Randy and one girl, Tammy together. By 1987 Joel basically had two wives and six children. His “second wife” was a woman name Jill Armstrong. In 1969 when she was twelve she had started working as a babysitter for the Guzek family. For whatever the reason her family basically sent her to live with them. One week before she turned thirteen Joel started sexually molesting her. By 1987 they had two children. According to Tammy Joel had began molesting her when she was in the first grade until she was a teenager.
Kathleen would say that in all the years they were together there were only two days in which he did not drink throughout the day. Those two days were spent at amusement parks that did not sell alcohol. Joel was described as “sexually perverse” and he was inappropriate with every female that walked into the home. Joe Guzek's first wife described an incident with Joel saying he would tell the boys' girlfriends that if they were not satisfied with his sons they could come to him. They even had a safe word, “Bonzai” in the home when Joel got out of control. When anyone in the house heard that word they stopped what they were doing and they ran to rescue to attempt to calm Joel down. However, no one seemed to look out for Tammy. When asked, everyone said that Tammy never yelled the safe word and not only did no one, including her mother come to her rescue even though she knew what was going on, Randy and Danny were participants in her abuse also.
Kathleen left Joel in the fall of 1986. My research stated that at the time of the Houser murders Joel's parents were living in one bus on his property while Randy and Danny were living in another. It is unclear how old Tammy was at that time and where she was but it seems highly unlikely that when Kathleen left Joel if Tammy was a minor she took her with her. Once when asked why she did not leave Joel sooner her excuse was that he was teaching the boys things. He sure was. He was teaching them how to molest their sister. Investigators would claim that the boys seemed much more important to Kathleen than her daughter and that throughout the investigation she kept asking if the boys were ok but never once asked about Tammy.
It is unclear just how everything about Tammy came out into the open but while Randy was on trial for the Houser murder he had also faced rape and incest charges. They were likely dropped solely for the fact that there seemed to be no reason for the state to spend money for a trial when he had been sentenced to death for the murders. Danny and Joel however would still face those charges. Danny would confess to 2nd degree sexual abuse but it is unclear what, if any time he served. Joel would rack up enough charges between helping his son hide items from the Houser house and his own charges of sodomy, rape and incest to keep him in jail literally for the rest of his life.
On investigator described the Guzek family as “the wildest family in terms of the multitude of crimes that I have ever come across.” When he referred to Randy and Joel he said “there aren't many crimes they haven't committed.” Joel was often described not just in his own trial but in his son's trial as an “absolute monster.” Even Anne Houser thought it odd that while she dated Randy that he never allowed her in his house, she always had to stay outside and would become defensive any time she asked about his family.
Nothing that Randy Guzek did when it came to his sister or the murder of the Housers and I am not one to “blame” or use a bad childhood as an excuse. But, this is not a normal “bad childhood.” I mean, all of us come from a dysfunctional family in one way or another but this family seems to take dysfunctional to a whole new level. It does not seem that anything really happened to Joel when he stole from the store or abused his family, although admittedly no one seemed to know the latter until too much damage was done. Researching this case was one of the few times that you can almost feel the disdain not for Randy or even Joel as much as Kathleen jump off the page when describing the household. Joel was out of control, everyone knew it, no one any better than Kathleen and yet not only did she allow it to continue, she allowed it to first poison her children but also ruin their lives. She had a duty to her children and she failed them all.
So while what Randy did, he did on his own. Well, he did have two accomplices, but by all accounts he knew no other real way of life. He grew up and was groomed by a man who decided you took what you want, when you wanted and however you wanted it. And he had a mother who stood by and said it was ok. Oh sure, I'm sure there were other adults who knew something was not right and probably could have changed these kids' destiny's but they did nothing too and I put a lot of the blame on Kathleen. As a mother your duty to your children outweighs everything. So while her ex husband finally went to jail for life, although it does not appear with any help from her, a son sits on death row, and another son at the very least has a criminal history that includes assaulting his sister, and let's not forget the daughter she allowed to continue to be molested and abused, she gets to walk free and act as if she did nothing wrong.
When people get to a certain age in life there's no turning back. There's no way to erase the past and the past is who makes you who you are. But, there is a window that occurs just when adulthood begins in which you can learn and see from a distance what you could not see when you were in it. Randy Guzek did not have a shot in hell really. He was eighteen when he committed the crime that put him on death row.... less than 12 months older than the Supreme Court allows states to execute someone. I do not know if Randy Guzek can be reformed or change but neither does anyone else and in my opinion no one ever cared enough to try.