NEW ULM, MINN.
Defying a court order, the mother of Daniel Hauser has gone into hiding with her 13-year-old son rather than subject him to the chemotherapy that doctors believe is his only hope against cancer.
State and national crime alerts went out Tuesday afternoon after Daniel's father startled a courtroom here by saying that he didn't know the whereabouts of his son or his wife, Colleen.
Anthony Hauser said he last spoke to his wife about 4 p.m. Monday as he milked cows at the family farm near Sleepy Eye. He said his wife told him she was going to leave and "That's all you need to know."
Brown County District Judge John Rodenberg reacted by finding Colleen Hauser in contempt of court. He also ordered that Daniel be placed in a foster home as soon as he is located, then sent to a pediatric oncologist for treatment of his Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Doctors have said that with treatment Daniel has an 80 to 90 percent chance of survival; without it he likely will die within five years.
"The court's priority at this point is to try to get Daniel Hauser and get him the care he needs," said Rodenberg, who at one point urged lawyers to speed up what became a 90-minute proceeding. "Daniel is 90 minutes farther away from here" than when court convened, Rodenberg said.
Had Daniel attended Tuesday's hearing, he would have heard his doctor testify that a chest X-ray taken Monday showed that his tumor has grown back to its original size before chemotherapy. A medical report filed with the court also noted a "significant worsening'' of the tumor since a March 13 X-ray.
Brown County Sheriff Rich Hoffmann said that investigators were checking leads in the area and that they expect to get additional calls as news spreads about Daniel's disappearance.
Suspected flight risk
County officials had "kind of suspected this would happen," Hoffmann said of the Hausers' disappearance. "But we had no legal grounds to do anything" preemptive.
A statewide crime alert containing Colleen Hauser's description was sent to law enforcement agencies. County Attorney James Olson said the judge's order will allow for her arrest in any state. Authorities are unsure what vehicle they are looking for -- the family van was left at the home so someone likely picked up Colleen and Daniel, Hoffmann said. "There's no vehicle missing," he said.
There's no record yet of credit card use by Colleen Hauer, something that could help track her, Hoffman said.
Olson said he is considering whether to ask the judge to also find Anthony Hauser in contempt and perhaps jail him until Daniel is found. "I don't know, though. This whole thing is pretty crazy. Maybe he's telling the truth and really doesn't know what's going on."
Reached at home Tuesday night, Anthony Hauser said he has some ideas where his wife might have gone. "But I can't say for certain," he said, declining to elaborate. "I think it's possible that she's gone off to get help [for Daniel]."
When X-rays this week showed the tumor had grown back to its original size, "it threw fear" into his wife, Anthony Hauser said. "She didn't tell me that. I just know her."
Hauser said he was a "bit disappointed" that his wife didn't stick with the plan they had talked about. "We were going to present a treatment plan to the court. If they didn't go with it, we would appeal it," he said. Anthony Hasuer said he doesn't oppose chemotherapy but would prefer that it be given less frequently and in conjunction with alternative therapy.
"I know many people around here who have had cancer, they did the chemo, it would come back," Hauser said. "They did the chemo again and again and they are all in the grave. Chemo isn't foolproof."
Daniel received only a single treatment of chemotherapy after his cancer was diagnosed in January. Instead, he and his parents began "alternative medicines," such as herbs and vitamins, citing their religious beliefs and fear that the treatment itself was harming the boy.
Rodenberg last week ruled that the Hausers were medically neglecting their son. However, he said that Daniel could remain with them if they obtained an X-ray to track any changes in the cancer and chose an oncologist to treat the boy.
'Other places to go'
Dr. James Joyce testified Tuesday that when he examined Daniel on Monday, the boy complained of severe pain around a "port" that had been placed in his chest in January to administer cancer-fighting drugs. The pain probably was caused by the tumor pushing at the port, Joyce said.
Joyce said he was ready to set an appointment for Daniel with an oncologist, and recommended doctors at Children's Hospital of Minnesota, the University of Minnesota or Mayo Clinic, but Colleen Hauser declined.
He said he also tried to give Daniel more information about lymphoma, but that his mother and a woman accompanying them -- who identified herself to the doctor as California attorney Susan Daya -- left in a rush, saying they had "other places to go."
Seeking info by phone
At the judge's request, a court clerk tried to call Daya and Colleen Hauser on cell phones Tuesday without success. The clerk also called the boy's maternal grandmother, who testified by phone that she had not spoken to her daughter for about two weeks and didn't know where she is.
Daniel's oldest sister, Mary Ann, 16, also testified Tuesday that she had not seen her mother since Monday and did not know where to find her or Daniel.
After the hearing concluded, a man who for a time acted as a family spokesman said he was now "pretty upset'' with the Hausers.
"Daniel should be getting some treatment -- something," said Dan Zwakman of Cottage Grove, a member of a religious group to which Daniel Hauser and his mother belong. The group says it follows Native American traditions of healing using herbs and meditation.
"They said they were going to obey the judge's order, and then they take off. I don't know what they're thinking," Zwakman said.
Staff writer M.L. Smith contributed to this report. Warren Wolfe • 612-673-7253