Serial rapist case involving Arizona women comes to light for first time

A new book gives details about a serial rapist who terrorized Arizona and other states for years.
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 8:11 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — It’s a story that’s flown under the radar for far too long until now. A convicted serial rapist moved from city to city, state to state, terrorizing Arizona women for years. Now, as a journalist puts the pieces together of what truly happened, a new book reveals the horrors these women faced and the daunting thought that there are far more.

“As an investigative journalist, I have covered thousands of stories,” said author Tammy Leitner. “This story literally chose me.” It was April 1999.

Tammy Leitner lived in a Scottsdale apartment complex. She was a newspaper reporter then and would go on to be a national news correspondent. “I opened my door and realized I couldn’t go outside. There was crime scene tape blocking my front door. My neighbor had been assaulted, and in a very strange twist of events a piece of evidence ended up inside our apartment,” said Leitner. “I was quite traumatized, but I didn’t know that at the time.”

She also didn’t know how this man broke in and what he told his rape victim. “He had entered through an open window, but he took the screen off,” said retired Scottsdale Police detective TJ Jiran. “He pointed a gun at her and said, ‘Don’t say a thing.’ She was severely traumatized. It was heart-wrenching to watch.”

Jiran was trying to determine if this man was responsible for another rape in Scottsdale just five months prior. And then – the suspect called the victim in Leitner’s apartment complex, taunting her. Police traced the call to a Valley man named Steve Bezak. Who was that? Turns out Phoenix Police may have been looking for him too, for years.

“This happened about a week and a half or so after my 19th birthday. I was going to ASU at the time,” said Jen O’Neill. She had just moved into a new apartment. Her belongings weren’t even unpacked. It was August 1995. “It was around 4 a.m. I woke up to somebody above me and he had a gun to my head,” said O’Neill. “And then he held my wrists above my head with one hand and proceeded to rape me. After he said if I told anyone, he would kill me.”

Jen O’Neill was raped just after her 19th birthday.
Jen O’Neill was raped just after her 19th birthday.(Arizona's Family)

Just a teen, O’Neill laid petrified in bed. Three years later and just minutes down the road, an eerily same attack on 43-year-old Karen Sullivan. “In the middle of the night I heard ‘shuffle, shuffle’ at the end of the bed, and all of the sudden there was this guy,” said Sullivan. “He took the duvet cover and pushed it up over my head, jammed something cold metal, and said, ‘don’t scream or else I’ll shoot your brains out.’ When he was done, he took those bathrobe ties and tied my ankles and hands together and said, ‘Don’t move, don’t say anything,’ and left.”

Sullivan and O’Neill didn’t know each other and wouldn’t for decades. They both had no idea who their attacker was until dominoes started to fall one by one. “Steve Bezak, the real Steve Bezak, came in and he had his ID stolen in Florida, “said Jiran. A stolen identity and a botched burglary in Florida finally led to an arrest in 1999 after years on the run. “I’m Claude Dean Hull the second. You got me,” said the suspect in an interrogation video with a Phoenix PD detective.

Sullivan got a call from a detective. “The guy’s name is Claude Dean Hull. And that’s when I first heard the name,” said Sullivan.

The name was the first domino. “There was a whiteboard that ran across his wall and it was all of the cases. All of us up on the wall,” said Sullivan, sitting in the Phoenix detective’s office. They were the faces of his victims.

“How many were there?” asked reporter Briana Whitney. “17,” said replied Sullivan. “In Arizona?” asked Whitney. “Mmhmm,” Sullivan said. “Over the next nine months, detectives started piecing together who he was and they determined he was a serial rapist and he had been doing this for several decades,” said Leitner.

California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida. His crimes spanned so many states. “Detectives estimated, they believed, that there could be as many as 100 sexual assault victims and 3,000 other victims that he either robbed, stole their identities, broke into their home,” said Leitner.

Woven into his lies, Hull described his MO to the police. “He calls himself a creeper. He said, ‘I creep.’ And he says, ‘You will not believe how many creepers are out there at night that I see, that don’t see me,’” Jiran recalled.

O’Neill found out later how Hull found her. “I basically walked by him. I just either smiled or said hello, nothing major. And he felt that I looked clean, yeah. And from there he watched which apartment I walked into and waited for my lights to go out,” O’Neill said.

He was a serial rapist, a serial predator, using the darkness of the night to strike. They were all innocent victims, the youngest just 11 years old. He was convicted in both Florida and Arizona for multiple rapes.

Leitner couldn’t let any of this go. She needed to know why. After several letters, Hull responded to her from prison. “He said, ‘OK, I’ll tell you. What do you want to know?’” Leitner recalled.

Leitner would correspond with him dozens of times, desperate to understand the depth of his sins for the survivors she had grown close to. “I never got what I was searching for from him. I wanted to understand why he did these things. Was he born this way? Was it a compulsion? Did he care that he hurt these people? And ultimately, I don’t think he has remorse for his crimes. I think the only thing he’s sorry for is he got caught,” said Leitner.

Her new book, “Don’t Say A Thing,” is the story of those who did say something and didn’t let this terrifying moment take life away from them. “Do you think that there are other victims here in Arizona that don’t even know he may have been their attacker?” asked Whitney. “Yes, yes absolutely. Absolutely,” said Leitner.

“There might be a couple victims that hear this and say, ‘That sounds like the guy that sexually assaulted me years ago,’” said Jiran.

The hope is they may come forward because now, there’s power in numbers. They are not victims but survivors. “I like to think, yes, this is part of my story, but it’s not the beginning and it’s definitely not the end,” said O’Neill. “He’s the reason for this story, but it’s about us. And we live to tell the tale,” said Sullivan.

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