Seeking Closure

Aunt of man killed in his driveway wants answers

By Brad Devereaux
The Saginaw News

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) — It was about a year ago, on April 10, 2012, when Joseph Hasse Jr. worked late, drove to his home on Saginaw’s West Side, pulled in the driveway and got out of his car to head inside.

But before he made it inside the house, he spoke with someone in the early morning hours, witnesses living nearby have reported.

Moments later, shots rang out.

Joe’s aunt, Paula Smith-George, got a phone call before 9 a.m. that morning at her home in Englewood, Fla., where she had moved from Saginaw two weeks earlier.

You need to get home right now,” said a friend of Hasse’s on the other end of the line. “Something’s going on at Joe’s house, they have the house taped off. There’s a body on side of the house.”

The family soon learned that Hasse, who worked as a woodstove builder, had been shot and killed.

They held a funeral for Hasse and held a prayer vigil on his birthday. They watched with hope for justice as police investigated the killing.

“It was a nightmare,” Smith-George told The Saginaw News. “It was something we never thought would happen.”

A year later, Smith-George said Hasse’s family wonders if his homicide will go unsolved.

“The police are not doing anything,” she said. “There are people who knew some things and may have some hints.”

Members of Hasse’s family have walked door to door in the neighborhood asking for information, Smith-George said, and learned from some neighbors that they heard two people talking for about 15 minutes before the shooting.

They heard an unconfirmed report that one neighbor saw a man walk by her house immediately after the shooting and heard him say, while speaking on a cellphone, “it’s done.”

They have forwarded to police the names of several people they believe may have had recent minor verbal altercations with Hasse.

The last update they heard was an email sent to the family from a detective, sent about six months ago, Smith-George said, stating there are no further updates in the case.

Smith-George admitted that Hasse told her he used marijuana and had planned on getting his medical marijuana card, but she does not believe his death was a “drug deal gone bad,” as some have speculated.

“He did like to have a good time, like any normal 26-year-old does, but for somebody go out and kill him like they did, it’s just sad,” she said.

She believes Hasse died right away because, knowing Joe, he would have called her or someone if he was suffering on the sidewalk, she said.

“He would’ve gotten his phone out to call me,” she said. “He was like my son, my best friend. He meant the world to me.”

Hasse lived with Smith-George in Saginaw for four years, beginning when he was 17, she said, until he got his own place on the 1100 block of Division and moved in with a girlfriend.

Hasse helped raise Smith-George’s kids, she said, and his death was a “tremendous loss” for her family.

Hasse died next to the car that he recently outfitted with a $400 security system after it had been broken into four times in the past, she said.

In the car’s closed trunk was the 9-mm handgun Hasse bought to protect himself after another incident when his truck was shot up on the city’s East Side, his aunt said. Police had returned the gun to Hasse in February 2012, having recovered it after he reported it stolen during an earlier break-in at his house.

Hasse told his aunt that he was afraid of crime in the area, a concern her family shared.

“I hated leaving Saginaw,” said Smith-George, who said she moved with her husband and children in search of safer surroundings.

“It was my home, and my family is still there, but it is probably the best thing my husband ever did for us,” she said, noting she feels better about raising her children in an area they believe is safer.

They want justice for her nephew.

“We know nothing more today than we did a year ago,” Smith-George said, asking anyone with information to reach out to police investigators. “The word is out on the street, but nobody is talking about it.”

Smith-George said the family also want to know why Hasse was killed so they can find closure. She acknowledged that the police don’t have leverage to make people come forward, but she thinks more could be done to solve Hasse’s killing.

“It doesn’t seem like they’re doing enough,” she said. “It seems like people are just getting away with it.”


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