NEW ULM, Minn. (AP) — Authorities nationwide were on the lookout Wednesday for a mother and her 13-year-old cancer-stricken son who fled after refusing the chemotherapy that doctors say could save the boy’s life.
Colleen Hauser and her son, Daniel, who has Hodgkin’s lymphoma, apparently left their southern Minnesota home sometime after a doctor’s appointment and court-ordered X-ray on Monday showed his tumor had grown.
Brown County District Judge John Rodenberg, who had ruled last week that Daniel’s parents were medically neglecting him, issued an arrest warrant Tuesday for Colleen Hauser and ruled her in contempt of court. Rodenberg also ordered that Daniel be placed in foster care and
immediately evaluated by a cancer specialist for treatment.
The family belongs to a religious group that believes in “natural” healing methods. Daniel has testified he believed chemotherapy would kill him and told the judge that if anyone tried to force him to take it, “I’d fight it. I’d punch them and I’d kick them.”
The boy’s father, Anthony Hauser, testified he didn’t know where his wife and son were but had made no attempt to find them. He testified he last saw his son Monday morning, and he saw his wife only briefly that evening when she said she was leaving “for a time.”
As of Wednesday morning, the mother and son still had not been found, said Carl Rolloff, a sheriff’s dispatcher.
Officials distributed the arrest warrant nationwide. Brown County Sheriff Rich Hoffman said Tuesday that investigators were following some leads locally, but declined to elaborate. A crime alert said the Hausers might be with Susan Daya, also known as Susan Hamwi, a California
attorney who accompanied them to a medical appointment Monday, or with a man named Billy Joe Best.
It wasn’t immediately clear who Best was. A Brown County deputy said he was unsure of his connection to the case.
“It’s absolutely crazy. It’s very disappointing,” James Olson, the attorney representing Brown County Family Services. “We’re trying to do what’s right for this young man.”
In an interview Wednesday at his family farm in Sleepy Eye, Anthony Hauser said he hadn’t heard from his wife or Daniel since they left. He said he has some ideas where they might have gone, and he’s shared them with authorities.
He said he doesn’t think his wife wants to harm Daniel. He thinks she just got scared when they got the results of the X-ray on Monday, and thought Brown County authorities would use it to try to get custody of Daniel.
“It’s just my opinion, but I think she figured that because of that X-ray she feared they were going to take him,” he said.
He said he doesn’t oppose chemotherapy “if it’s a necessary thing,” but thinks doctors use it too much.
He said he was trying to stay busy so he doesn’t think about his missing wife and sick son, and wonders why Brown County authorities got involved.
“I don’t know why they started this situation in the first place,” he said. “Why does someone believe they have the right over your child?”
Olson, the family services lawyer, had considered asking the judge to hold Anthony Hauser in contempt as well, but he said Wednesday he decided against that.
“I’m thinking that he probably doesn’t know where his wife and child are,” Olson said.
Daniel’s Hodgkin’s lymphoma, diagnosed in January, is considered highly curable with chemotherapy and radiation, but the boy quit chemo after a single treatment.
The judge has said Daniel, who has a learning disability and cannot read, did not understand the risks and benefits of chemotherapy and didn’t believe he was ill.
The Hausers are Roman Catholic and also believe in the “do no harm” philosophy of the Nemenhah Band, a Missouri-based religious group that believes in natural healing methods advocated by some American Indians. Colleen Hauser testified earlier that she had been treating
his cancer with herbal supplements, vitamins, ionized water and other natural alternatives.
The founder of Nemenhah, Philip Cloudpiler Landis, said it was a bad idea for Colleen Hauser to flee with her son. “You don’t solve anything by disregarding the order of the judge,” Landis said.
The family’s doctor, James Joyce, testified by telephone that he examined Daniel on Monday, and that an X-ray showed his tumor had grown to the size it was when he was first diagnosed.
“He had basically gotten back all the trouble he had in January,” the doctor said.
Joyce testified that he offered to make appointments for Daniel with oncologists, but the Hausers declined, then left in a rush with lawyer Susan Daya.
“Under Susan Daya’s urging, they indicated they had other places to go,” Joyce said.
Daya did not immediately respond to a call Tuesday from The Associated Press. The court also tried to reach her during the hearing, but got no answer.
Minnesota statutes require parents to provide necessary medical care for a child, Rodenberg wrote. The statutes say alternative and complementary health care methods aren’t enough.