HARTINGTON, Neb. — During a sometimes contentious hearing Wednesday, a judge ruled a Fordyce, Neb., man will stand trial on eight charges, including two counts of first-degree attempted murder.
Kevin Haug appeared Wednesday for a preliminary hearing in Cedar County Court at Hartington. The Cedar County Attorney’s office has filed an amended complaint, adding charges in connection to July 2 incidents that began at a Fordyce residence.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Cedar County Judge Douglas Luebe determined sufficient evidence existed on the two attempted murder charges. He bound Haug over to Cedar County District Court for trial on those charges and the other six where he waived his right to a preliminary hearing.
The attempted murder charges allege Haug stabbed one man multiple times and later intentionally sought to run over a law enforcement officer with a vehicle. Haug had waived his right to a preliminary hearing on the other six charges.
The amended Cedar County complaint against Haug includes the following charges:
• two counts of first-degree attempted murder, one count of first-degree assault and one count of use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, all Class 2 felonies and each with a maximum sentence of 50 years imprisonment and a minimum of one year in prison;
• one count of possession of a deadly weapon to commit a felony, a Class 3 felony, with a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine with a minimum penalty of one year imprisonment;
• one count of assault on an officer using a motor vehicle, a Class 3A felony with a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine with no minimum;
• one count of operation of a motor vehicle to avoid arrest and one count of criminal mischief, both Class 4 felonies, each with a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine with no minimum.
The sentences could run consecutively or concurrently, Luebe said.
Haug faces the charges in connection with an early-morning incident at a Fordyce residence. He allegedly confronted his wife, Rhea Haug, and another man, James Olson. Both were present for Wednesday’s hearing.
Wednesday’s proceedings carried tense exchanges between Special Deputy County Attorney Ed Matney and defense attorney Frederick “Fritz” Bartell of Norfolk, Nebraska.
Luebe appointed Bartell as a stand-in defense attorney when Haug made a prior court appearance without legal representation. That status remains to be resolved, with Haug not obtaining his own counsel so far and not filling out paperwork for a court-appointed attorney.
Bartell was instructed by the judge to serve as counsel at least through the preliminary hearing.
Cedar County Chief Deputy Chad Claussen, who responded to the alleged stabbing at the Fordyce home, took the stand Wednesday as the lone witness. During his cross examination, Bartell questioned Claussen about the accuracy of details during his testimony.
In addition, the defense attorney questioned Claussen about what he had witnessed versus what he was told and whether the deputy could tell Haug’s state of mind and intention.
Matney objected to the line of questioning. He also objected to Bartell’s introduction of documents with personal information about parties in the case that would become public record.
“This goes far beyond a preliminary hearing,” Matney said.
Bartell responded he was showing the court that Haug’s alleged actions didn’t constitute attempted murder and that the prosecution had not met its burden of proof.
Luebe allowed some latitude but cautioned Bartell about the direction he was taking the proceedings.
“This is a preliminary hearing, not a discovery hearing,” the judge told Bartell.
In a preliminary hearing, the state only has to meet the burden of showing probable cause that a crime had been committed, not guilt beyond a reasonable doubt as would be required in a trial, Luebe said.
As for the material introduced by Bartell, an agreement was reached to reduce the number of pages admitted into the public record from the original 46 to seven. In addition, the parties will review the papers to redact identifying information such as dates of birth or Social Security numbers.
During his time on the stand, Claussen testified about events at Rhea Haug’s home during the July 2 incident.
Claussen said he was working the 5 a.m. - 5 p.m. shift when he received a dispatch call around 6:51 a.m. reporting Kevin Haug had attacked James Olson with a machete at the Fordyce residence and then left in his vehicle.
“We assumed he would head to Yankton, where he owned real estate,” Claussen said. “The Yankton authorities were set up at the (Discovery) bridge on Highway 81. Yankton law enforcement reported Haug was driving a white Suburban. When he attempted to cross the bridge, he saw the South Dakota law enforcement and headed back into Nebraska.”
Meanwhile, Claussen responded to the call at Rhea Haug’s residence. The deputy said, to his knowledge, Kevin and Rhea Haug were married but recently separated, and Kevin Haug had moved out of the house.
Upon arriving at the Fordyce home, Claussen exited the patrol car and approached the residence. He saw blood drops on the sidewalk, and he saw the west door knob had been drilled out and a window broken out.
Claussen drew his weapon, suspecting Kevin Haug might be in the house.
The deputy met with Rhea, who told him Kevin was no longer there and that Olson had been taken by ambulance to the hospital.
Moving through the house, Claussen saw blood in the hallway, kitchen and bedroom. Rhea told him that Kevin possessed two knives.
The Haugs’ 7-year-old son was sleeping in the bedroom, while their 12-year-old daughter had been outside the home while taking out trash.
Claussen continued into the bedroom, where he saw “a large amount of blood.” He also encountered blood in the kitchen along with a bloody T-shirt. Rhea told the deputy that Olson was bleeding from the head, hip and abdomen.
In response to Matney’s question, Claussen said he held concerns about the victim’s condition and even his survival.
According to court documents, Olson suffered a cut on his forehead, a stab wound in his upper right abdomen that required surgery, a deep laceration to his left hand and cuts on his lower left abdomen.
Claussen was told Kevin Haug had washed his hands and two knives in the swimming pool south of the house. The deputy found blood on the railing of the swimming pool, and he learned the two children had fled to a neighbor’s home.
The daughter panicked after she saw Kevin Haug emerge covered in blood from the house, Claussen said. Kevin then washed his hands in the swimming pool and left the knives in the pool before getting in his vehicle and driving away, the deputy added.
The pool was drained, and Claussen said he found a machete with a 14-inch blade and a filet knife with a 7-inch blade.
The questioning then moved to Kevin’s alleged escape with authorities in pursuit. At 5:48 p.m. that evening, the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office was advised by the Yankton Police Department (YPD) that they were in “hot” pursuit of Kevin Haug, who was allegedly driving a stolen U-Haul.
The YPD officers continued their pursuit of Haug into Nebraska. Cedar County deputies Sam Vacha and Travis Schultz responded to the call.
Claussen testified that, near the Highway 12-81 intersection in Nebraska, the Yankton officials dropped behind the Cedar County authorities, who took the lead on the pursuit. At that point, the YPD backed off and returned to Yankton, he added.
The Nebraska State Patrol set up spike strips, which proved unsuccessful in stopping Haug. He turned west on Highway 84, still in Cedar County. Haug took the U-Haul to an abrupt stop. Schultz exited his vehicle, and Haug allegedly put the U-Haul into reverse, ramming the deputy’s vehicle.
Vacha continued the pursuit, at which point Haug allegedly turned his vehicle around and rammed Vacha’s side door.
In response to Matney’s question, Claussen said he considered that Haug had manipulated the scene in order to T-bone the deputy’s pickup. The deputy testified that he had seen fatal results in similar smashes.
Bartell questioned Claussen’s accuracy in describing the weapons he found in the pool and whether the 14-inch machete was closer to being a 10-inch corn knife.
Bartell asked whether Claussen had taken a DNA sample at the scene. When the deputy said he hadn’t, Bartell questioned how authorities could positively know whose blood was found at any particular location.
In addition, Bartell asked if the deputy held personal observations of certain events. Claussen said he observed items at the scene and collected information from other persons.
In talking with Claussen, Olson said he was in the house and headed upstairs where he was confronted by Kevin Haug. Olson told the deputy that Haug said, “I’m going to kill you today, and I’m going to kill her.”
Bartell began questioning Claussen on whether he learned if Rhea and Olson had a romantic relationship. The deputy said he was unaware of the nature of their relationship, and Olson said he was staying in the basement because Rhea feared Kevin Haug’s return to the house.
Matney objected to the line of questioning as beyond Claussen’s knowledge and as irrelevant to the heaing.
Bartell asked about the extent of Olson’s injuries in what the attorney described as a fight. Matney objected to the wording of the question, saying the incident was an attack, not a fight.
In response, Bartell said each side could characterize the event as they wanted and let the court make the final determination. The defense attorney said he was seeking to establish the events didn’t constitute attempted murder or pre-meditation.
Haug will make his initial district court appearance Nov. 22 in Hartington. He remains held on $1 million bond.
He was transferred Monday from Antelope County Jail in Neligh, Nebraska, to Madison County Jail in Madison, Nebraska, according to Cedar County Sheriff Larry Koranda.
Haug has begun serving a sentence on a Madison County probation violation and will remain jailed there while moving through Cedar County court proceedings, Koranda said.
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