Tracie Hazelett, 33, was married to Dale S. Hausner for a year and a half in the early 1990s.
"He wasn't very nice to me," Hazelett said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press at her home in suburban Avondale. "He was very mentally abusive. He used to tell me ways he could kill me and get away with it ... He would tell me he could break my neck and put me at the bottom of the stairs and act like I fell."
Hazelett said she was shocked to hear Hausner, 33, had been arrested last week as part of an investigation that has grown to include seven killings and the wounding of 17 people in the Phoenix metropolitan area since May 2005.
Also arrested was Hausner's roommate, 30-year-old Samuel John Dieteman, a native of Minnesota. The two are being held without bond.
"Looking back, I can see him doing something like this," Hazelett said of Hausner. "But I never would have imagined it."
She said Hausner never hit her, but constantly belittled her. "I was really miserable," she said. "He'd tell me, 'You can't cook, you can't clean. You're ugly. No one wants you.'"
In a jailhouse news conference Monday, Dale Hausner challenged Karen Hausner's claims.
"That's just ex-wife stuff," he said. "That's just character assassination. She is just looking to get her ugly face in the paper."
Hazelett left Hausner and filed for divorce in September 1993, according to court records. He remarried, to Karen Hausner, who filed an order of protection against him in February 2002. In that document, she described Hausner as threatening and abusive.
Linda Mary Swaney, Hausner's girlfriend and the mother of his 2-year-old daughter, also filed for an order of protection against him in July.
Hausner and Dieteman have been jailed since last week and been booked for investigation on two counts each of first-degree murder and 13 counts each of attempted first-degree murder.
Hausner said Monday that authorities won't be able to prove the case against him, though Dieteman could have committed the crimes without his knowledge — possibly taking his car while he was sleeping.
"I don't see Sam as a cold-blooded killer, but if they've got evidence saying he is, there's not much I can do to refute that," Hausner said.
Jail officials said Dieteman declined requests for an interview.
Dieteman, a drifter who was wanted in Minnesota on several criminal charges, had been surviving in Arizona for the past few years with the help of friends, said Kelly Hottowe, a bartender who has known him since 2002.
Then, last summer, the bottom fell out. Dieteman's mother kicked him out of her house in Glendale, and he lost his job as an electrician, Hottowe told the AP.
"He started drinking a lot," she said. "He'd be at the bar as soon as it opened."
It was during this year, police said, that Dieteman started preying on pedestrians and bicyclists with Hausner. According to court documents, Dieteman said the two would drive around at night and randomly shoot people on the street.
Hausner said he and Dieteman merely drove around to unwind. "There is no law against driving around at night because you are tired and can't sleep," Hausner said.