Robert Christian HANSEN
A.K.A.: "The Alaska's Serial Killer"
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape - Flew his victims into the Alaskan wilderness and hunted them down like wild game
Number of victims: 17 - 21
Date of murders: 1973 - 1983
Date of arrest: June 1983
Date of birth: February 15, 1939
Victims profile: Women (prostitutes, topless dancers, or topless barmaids)
Method of murder: Shooting (.223-caliber Ruger Mini-14 rifle)
Location: Anchorage, Alaska, USA
Status: Sentenced to a term of life imprisonment plus 461 years on February 28, 1984. Died in prison on August 21, 2014
Robert Hansen dies at 75; convicted Alaska serial killer
Rachel D'Oro - WashingtonPost.com
August 22, 2014
Convicted serial killer Robert Hansen, who abducted women and hunted them down in the Alaska wilderness in the 1970s as Anchorage boomed with construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, died Aug. 21 at a hospital in Anchorage. He was 75.
Alaska Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sherrie Daigle confirmed the death and said the state medical examiner will determine the cause.
Mr. Hansen was convicted in 1984 after confessing to killing 17 women, mostly dancers and prostitutes, during a 12-year span. He was convicted of four of the murders in a deal that spared him having to go to trial 17 times.
The Anchorage baker also confessed to raping an additional 30 women during that time.
Mr. Hansen was the subject of a 2013 film titled “The Frozen Ground,” which starred Nicolas Cage as an Alaska State Trooper investigating the slayings. Actor John Cusack portrayed Mr. Hansen.
Mr. Hansen was serving a 461-year sentence in Alaska at the time of his death. He had been incarcerated at a state prison in Seward and was moved in May to the Anchorage Correctional Center to receive medical attention.
Mr. Hansen, who got the nickname “the Butcher Baker,” owned a bakery in a downtown mini-mall in the 1970s and 1980s. He lived across town with his wife and children, who knew nothing of his other life.
Construction of the 800-mile oil pipeline in the 1970s brought prostitutes, pimps, con artists and drug dealers to Alaska’s largest city, aiming to separate construction workers from some of the big money they were pulling in. Many who looked for quick riches left as abruptly as they arrived in Anchorage, making sudden disappearances commonplace.
Glenn Flothe, a then-trooper who helped put Mr. Hansen behind bars, told the Anchorage Daily News in 2008 that Mr. Hansen’s victims initially included any woman who caught his eye, but Mr. Hansen quickly learned that strippers and prostitutes were harder to track and less likely to be missed.
Mr. Hansen would abduct the women and take them to remote places outside the city. Sometimes he would drive, and other times he would fly his private plane. A licensed pilot, Mr. Hansen told investigators that one of his favorite spots to take his victims was the Knik River northeast of Anchorage.
Investigators have said that in some instances Mr. Hansen would rape the women but return them to Anchorage, warning them not to contact authorities. Other times, he would let the women go free in the wilderness and then hunt them with his rifle.
Only 12 bodies of the 17 women Mr. Hansen confessed to killing have been found.
Robert Christian Hansen was born Feb. 15, 1939, in Estherville, Iowa. As a young man, he was jailed for burning down a school-bus garage in Pocahontas, Iowa. He moved to Alaska in the late 1960s.
Born at Pocahontas, Idaho, in 1940, Hansen was the son of a Danish immigrant who followed in his father's footsteps as a baker. In his youth, Hansen was skinny and painfully shy, afflicted with a stammer and a severe case of acne that left him permanently scarred. (In later years, he would recall his face as "one big pimple.") Shunned by the attractive girls in school, he grew up hating them and nursing fantasies of cruel revenge.
Hansen was married in 1961 and divorced within the year, following his first arrest, on charges of arson. Six years later, he wed another Pocahontas native and she followed him to Anchorage, Alaska, where he opened his own bakery and prospered in a new land, safely removed from the painful memories of childhood and adolescence. Hansen took flying lessons and purchased his own private plane, earning a reputation as an outdoors man and hunter who stalked Dahl sheep, wolves, and bear with a rifle or bow and arrow.
In 1972, Hansen was arrested twice more, charged with the abduction and attempted rape of a housewife (who escaped his clutches) and the rape of a prostitute (who did not). Serving less than six months on a reduced charge, he was picked up again, for shoplifting a chain saw, in 1976. Convicted of larceny, he was sentenced to five years in prison, but the verdict was overturned on appeal, the Alaska Supreme Court regarding his sentence as "too harsh."
Unknown to local authorities, Hansen's visible activities were only the tip of a very lethal iceberg. According to his subsequent confession, Hansen preyed consistently on women in the decade between 1973 and 1983, murdering 17 and raping another 30 who survived.
As targets, he selected prostitutes, "exotic" dancers and the like, abducting them by airplane to the wilderness outside of Anchorage, where they were forced to act out Hansen's private fantasies. "If they came across with what I wanted," he explained, "we'd come back to town. I'd tell them if they made any trouble for me, I had connections and would have them put in jail for being prostitutes." Resistance -- or demands for payment after sex -- resulted in assorted victims being murdered, sometimes with the ghoulish touch of Hansen stripping them and stalking them like animals, making the kill with a hunting knife or his favorite big-game rifle.
The first indication of a killer at large came in 1980, when construction workers unearthed a woman's remains near Eklutna Road. Stabbed to death in 1979, she was never identified, dubbed "Eklutna Annie" by police assigned to work the case. Later that year, the corpse of Joanna Messina was found in a gravel pit near Seward, and a special task force was organized to probe the killings. Topless dancer Sherry Morrow had been dead ten months when hunters found her body in a shallow grave beside the Knik River, but the discovery brought authorities no closer to a solution in their case.
In 1983, Hansen decided to save time and energy by bringing his victims home. He called it his "summer project," laying the groundwork by packing his wife and two children off on a European vacation. Next, he began running ads in a local singles newspaper, seeking women to "join me in finding what's around the next bend, over the next hill."
On June 13, 1983, a 17-year-old captive escaped from Hansen en route to his airplane hangar, handcuffs still dangling from one wrist as she ran for help. Her charges brought Hansen to the attention of task force detectives, and he ultimately confessed to a series of 17 murders, including that of Paula Golding, found by hunters in September 1983.
On a flying tour of the wilderness, Hansen began pointing out graves to state troopers, and they recovered eleven bodies over the next eight months. Several victims remained anonymous, their names unknown even to Hansen, but others were identified as Rox Easland, Lisa Futrell, Andera Altiery, Angela Fetter, Tersa Watson, and Delynn Frey -- all reported missing from the Anchorage area during Hansen's reign of terror.
On February 18, 1984, Robert Hansen pled guilty on four counts of first-degree murder, in the cases of "Eklutna Annie," Joanna Messina, Sherry Morrow, and Paula Golding. Charges were dismissed in the other cases, but it scarcely mattered, as Hansen was sentenced to-a term of life imprisonment plus 461 years.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
When the remains of women began appearing in remote areas around Anchorage, Alaska, in 1980, authorities wasted little time organizing a task force to deal with the sudden emergence of what was likely a serial killer. Still, it would take over three years for them to capture the slayer, bakery owner and avid outdoorsman Robert Hansen.
Hansen came to Anchorage after marrying in 1967 and moving to the state from his hometown of Pocohantes, Idaho. He appeared to have left his ineffectual past behind, including a childhood marked by unconquerable shyness brought on by stuttering and acne problems, until he was arrested for two sexual assaults in 1972. After serving a few months in jail, Hansen embarked on a career of homocide, picking his victims from Anchorage's ranks of prostitutes and exotic dancers.
It was on June 13, 1983, when it all came crashing down for Hansen. An abducted prostitute escaped his clutches while being led to her assailants airplane (Hansen is quite possibly the only serial killer to transport living victims by air) and ran, a pair of handcuffs still attached to one wrist. Authorities were alerted and Hansen was immediately picked up as the prime suspect in the rash of murdered and missing women. It was not long before he broke and confessed to seventeen murders. Most of these victims had not yet been found so Hansen dutifully pointed out the locations of various dump sites over the next few months.
His method was nothing if not inventive. After luring his future victims to his plane and flying them out to a remote cabin, raped them, and would often strip them and allow them to set out into the wild on foot. Hansen would then pursue his frightened prey until he hunted the woman down and dispatched of her with a hunting knife or a high-powered rifle. Strangely he claimed he had let several women go free when convinced his abductee would not report the sexual assault to police.
Hansen pled guilty to four homocides, with charges dismissed in the other thirteen cases, and was sentenced to 461 years in prison.
Robert Christian Hansen (born on February 15, 1939 in Estherville, Iowa) is an American serial killer. Between 1980 and 1983, Hansen murdered between 17 and 21 persons near Anchorage, Alaska.
Hansen was born in Estherville, Iowa to Christian and Edna Hansen. Throughout childhood and adolescence, Hansen was described as being quiet and a loner, and had a horrible relationship with his domineering father. He was frequently bullied at school, usually for his perpetual acne, and also for his severe stutter.
In 1957, Hansen enlisted in the United States Army Reserve and served for one year before being discharged. He later worked as an assistant drill instructor at a police academy in Pocahontas, Iowa. In Pocahontas, Hansen began a relationship with a late adolescent girl and married in the summer of 1960.
On December 7 of that year, he was arrested for burning down a local school bus garage, for which he served 20 months of a 3-year prison sentence. His wife filed for divorce against him while he was incarcerated. Over the next few years, he was jailed several times for petty theft.
In 1967, he moved to Anchorage, Alaska with his second wife, whom he had married in 1963. In Anchorage, he was well liked by his neighbors and was famed as a local hunting champion. He even broke several records, documented in the Pope & Young's book of world hunting records. However, these were vacated after Hansen's conviction.
In 1977, he was imprisoned for theft of a chainsaw, diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed lithium to control his mood swings. He was never officially ordered to take the medication, however, and was released from prison after serving a year. By then the father of two children, Hansen opened a bakery after his release.
He began killing prostitutes around 1980. After paying for their services, he would kidnap and rape them; he would then fly them out to his cabin in the Knik River Valley in his private airplane. He would then release his victim to stalk and kill her with either a hunting knife or a .223 caliber Ruger Mini-14 rifle.
On June 13, 1983, prostitute Cindy Paulson went to the police and identified Hansen as the man who had raped and kidnapped her. Hansen denied the accusations and was not initially considered a serious suspect. Detective Glenn Flothe of the Alaska State Troopers police contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and requested help after a body was found, and Roy Hazelwood was brought in to assist the investigation.
Hazelwood theorized that the killer would be an experienced hunter with low self-esteem, have a history of being rejected by women and would feel compelled to keep "souvenirs" of his murders, such as a victim's jewelry or even body parts. John E. Douglas in his book Mind Hunters states that his unit was called in to assist.
Flothe and the police secured a warrant and searched Hansen's house on October 27, 1983, uncovering jewelry belonging to the victims, newspaper clippings about the murders and an array of firearms — including a .223-caliber Mini-14 rifle
Hansen was arrested and charged with assault, kidnapping, multiple weapons offenses, theft and insurance fraud; the last charge was related to his filing a claim with the insurance company over alleged theft of some trophies with the funds being used to purchase the Super Cub (at trial he claimed he later recovered the trophies in his backyard but forgot to inform the insurer).
When ballistics tests returned a match between bullets found at the crime scenes and Hansen's rifle, he entered into a plea bargain. He pled guilty to the four homicides the police knew about and provided details about his other victims in return for serving his sentence in a federal prison along with no publicity in the press. He confirmed the police theory of how the women were abducted, adding that he would sometimes let a potential victim go if she convinced him that she wouldn't report him to police, and indicated that he began killing as early as 1973. He showed investigators 17 gravesites in the Knik River Valley, 12 of which were unknown to the police. 11 remains of a probable 21 victims were exhumed by the police and returned to their families. Hansen was sentenced to 461 years in prison.
Hansen was first imprisoned at the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. In 1988, he was returned to Alaska and was briefly incarcerated at Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau. He is currently imprisoned at Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward.
In popular culture
The Hansen case served as inspiration for the action thriller Naked Fear (2007) starring Danielle De Luca as a dancer stalked by a maniacal hunter in the uninhabited regions of New Mexico.
The Hunting For Bambi video series depicts supposedly real hunts of women, similar to Hansen's activities.
An episode of the Discovery Channel TV series, The FBI Files, depicted his murderous rampage, entitled Hunter's Game.
Robert Hansen was a skinny little fucker as a kid. He also stuttered and had shocking acne. This all combined to make him less than attractive to the 'nice' girls at his school in Iowa. And eventually this rejection led to him moving away to Alaska.
It was because of this rejection also that Hansen developed something of a hatred for many women. But he did say that he respected some, particularly those that he felt were good. But those that were bad, well he had something in mind for those sluts.
Hansen liked to hunt, and sometimes liked to choose prey that was not natural to the bush in Anchorage, Alaska. His special prey was found in the Red light district of town. He preferred whores and strippers, women he felt deserved to be treated as animals. For ten years he hunted the area before he was finally caught.
For Hansen the beginning of the end came with a 17 year old whore. He gave her $200 for a blow-job, then changed the rules. He took her back to his place, got her to strip, then snapped some handcuffs on the bitch. He tortured and abused her for the next few hours, stuttering more as his excitement grew. One must laugh at the thought of "B B B Bitch, y y y you t t t ake i i it..." Anyway, he tired of this game and told her to get dressed. They were going to his cabin in the woods, where he took women like her. He told her that he usually kept them for a week or more before killing them. He took her in his car to a private airport where he kept his private plane. This is where Hansen fucked right up. He undid on handcuff as he ordered he on the plane, but she decided to make a run for it, and got away after a short chase.
A few minutes later she ran in front of a cop car screaming "He's going to kill me, he was going to kill me." Once she had calmed down she led the cops to the house she had been taken to. The police knew the house, it was that of the local baker, Robert Hansen, a man they knew as a respectable type of guy. They then took the girl out to the airport, where she pointed out Hansen's airplane. It would seem they had a suspect.
A few hours later Hansen was picked up at his house. Under questioning he seemed to stutter very badly, but was able to convince the cops that he had nothing to do with the girl. He also had two of the most respected men in Anchorage as an alibi. Compared with the testimony of a known prostitute this was a lot, so police filed it away and forgot all about it. Why would they believe a whore over a respectable man.
A few months later some hunters stumbled across a female corpse in bush a few miles from Anchorage. It was Sherry Morrow, a topless dancer who had been missing for about a year. Once this discovery was made police started to worry. A year earlier they had found a corpse in the same area. They also had over a dozen missing women in similar occupations in their files. And once ballistics had checked the bullets from the two bodies they were both from a .223-caliber Ruger Mini-14 rifle. Both bodies were dressed, with no bullet holes in the clothes, meaning they had been dressed after death. It seemed they had a serial killer.
Police started looking through their files and came across Hansen's brush with them. A quick check showed that he had a cabin near the killers dumping site. Around this time they also linked a few more corpses to the list. Construction workers found parts of a woman that was unable to be identified because the body had been mauled by bears. They also found Joanna Messina who's body had also been chewed up by bears. She was a topless dancer that had vanished without a trace. Police also looked into five more missing topless dancers, who's friends all gave similar stories of their last known movements.
Police needed something, so they decided to lean on Hansen. They threatened his previous alibi's, who eventually cracked under extreme pressure from the police. Once they had this, they issued a search warrant for his house. They found the gun which, when tested, was the murder weapon. They also found a map of the local forest which had twenty different sites marked. Four of these marks matched the four known dumping grounds, so police were not to happy about the thought of sixteen marks.
As it was winter it was actually impossibly for anyone to check the suspected ground for a few weeks. The ground was frozen, and therefore impossible the dig up. Despite this police railroaded Hansen, letting him believe they had everything they needed to know about him. He was conned into speaking to them without his lawyer. Hansen made a deal with police. he would admit to the four known murders, and in return could not be prosecuted for any other murder. He would be sentenced to life, and seemed to be certain that he wanted that.
Police taped his confession, which lasted over 12 hours, during which he admitted to 17 murders. He also said that he had taken over 40 more women hostage during the last ten years which he had released because he believed they were honestly attracted to him. The ones that died were the ones that wouldn't totally submit to his demands.
The one murder that seemed to excite, and also made him famous, was that of Paula Golding. After raping and torturing her, Hansen opened the cabin door and let her run away. After a few moments he took off after her with his rifle. He was hunting her, and talked with great excitement about how she had run across some rather sharp rocks and cut her feet badly, forcing her to try and hide under a bush. He spotted her and called out her name, this frightened her and she jumped up and started running. Unfortunately she chose open ground to run over, and Hansen raised his gun, and BANG, all that was left was the burial.
"It was like going after a trophy Dall sheep or a grizzly bear."
On February 28, 1984, Hansen was sentenced to 461n years in prison with no chance of parole. Police definitely suspect that he was involved in more murders, but have no way of proving anything as Hansen has never spoken of them.
A Serial Killer in Alaska
To big game hunter Robert Hansen, Alaska was paradise. But for his victims, it was a terrifying wilderness where no one could hear their screams.
The cover summary of Bernard DuClos' book on Hansen, Fair Game, is much more than just sensationalism. It's a pretty accurate summary of the period from 1971 to 1983, when Hansen stalked the sleazy parts of Anchorage looking for victims. He is known to have killed at least 17 young women, although only 12 bodies were ever found. A recent television report, though, says the number was 37, and an FBI spokesman commented that Hansen could actually be one of the country's worst killers. He also admitted to about 30 rapes in the same period, yet never showed any sign of remorse for any of his crimes.
This case is significant for two reasons. It is the only known killing spree in which many of the women were apparently flown into the wilderness, released and then hunted down. It also set a legal precedent in 1983 when psychological profiling was used as the main basis for issuing search warrants on Hansen's property.
The information in this article has been extracted from DuClos' 284-page book, Fair Game. Now out of print, it does an excellent job of identifying and removing stereotypes, portraying prostitutes, police officers, judges and priests as people who sometimes make mistakes, and sometimes do what is right even when they put themselves at risk.
DuClos tells an important story that needs to kept in mind whenever you're tempted to say about another person "Oh, he's actually a pretty good guy", when evidence is to the contrary. Bob Hansen's killing spree continued for at least 12 years because, instead of people admitting that he was a dangerous sociopath, he was time and time again labelled as an upstanding family man.
Robert Christian Hansen was born on February 15, 1939, in Esterville, Iowa, to a Danish immigrant baker and his wife. His childhood was not easy, as his father was very strict, and Robert worked long hours in their bakery. As well as being of slight build, Robert had acne so bad that he almost never socialized, and is remembered as a "loner". Although he was left-handed, Robert was forced to use his right hand, and he says the resulting stress made a stuttering problem even worse.
On December 7, 1960, the first major event occurred that would fit Hansen into the psychological profile of a developing serial killer. As retribution for perceived abuses by the people of Pocahantas, Iowa, he forced a 16-year-old employee at the bakery to help him burn down the school bus garage. Unfortunately, the teen had morals, though, and turned himself and Hansen in. Hansen was sentenced to 3 years in prison, and his wife of only 6 months divorced him. He served only 20 months of that sentence - he was paroled despite being assessed as having an "infantile personality" which made him obsess about getting even with people.
Within a few months of being released, Hansen was married again. He also started stealing just for the thrill of doing it. Although he was caught stealing several times, no charges were ever laid. In 1967, the Hansens decided it was time for a new start, and left for Alaska.
In the mountains around Anchorage, Hansen honed his skills as a hunter, and in 1969, 1970 and 1971, had 4 animals entered into the Pope & Young record book. In about 1971, though, he discovered that another type of hunting satisfied him more.
Anchorage at the time had an extremely rough "tenderloin" district. Largely run by Seattle Mafia boss Frank Colacurio, it was a wide-open district centered on Fourth Avenue, where anything went. Young women were lured there by promises of making huge wages 'dancing' in clubs with names like Wild Cherry, Arctic Fox, Booby Trap and the Great Alaskan Bush Company (which is still in operation, though in a different location). As the population and disposable income skyrocketed in Anchorage during the oil boom, the bigger clubs were skimming off $50-100,000 a month in cash. Between the clubs were peep shows, and magazine stands featuring the worst kind of child pornography. Also part of that world was violence - from beatings and armed robberies to firebombs and murders, police were kept busy. Between 1979 and 1983, police responded 207 times to disturbances at the Booby Trap alone.
In this world, Bob Hansen found all the victims he could want - women who, for $300, would go anywhere with him. From his looks, women apparently felt they had no reason to fear him; as one rape victim reported, "He sort of looked like the perfect dork." Once they got in his truck or car, though, the psychopath appeared, and the number of victims accumulated rapidly over the years. Most of the rapes were never reported, and even when Hansen was positively identified, his respectable facade always won over the prostitute's version of the story. In the vastness of Alaska, there were never any witnesses to the murders. In 1980, he shot the dog of a woman he had murdered, so that the dog wouldn't lead anybody to her shallow grave.
In 1977, the courts blew a chance to get Hansen off the street for a few years. He had stolen a chain saw, and although psychiatric reports made it clear that he was a danger to society, he served only 1 year of a 5-year sentence. He was ordered to stay on a lithium program to control mood swings from a diagnosed bipolar effective disorder, but that order was never enforced, either in prison or after his release. Just a few weeks after his early release, he killed again.
As the body count climbed, his respectable look continued to build. In January 1981, he opened a bakery at 9th and Ingra, using $13,000 from the insurance settlement of a faked burglary of his home. When the fraud was discovered, he claimed that all the 'stolen' wildlife trophies were later mysteriously found in his back yard, and he had just forgotten to tell his insurance company.
In January 1982, he bought Piper Super Cub N3089Z - although he never got a pilot's license, it became one of the main tools in his killing spree. He would pick up a woman on Fourth Avenue, handcuff her or tie her up at gunpoint, and fly her out to the Knik River. After landing on a remote sandbar, the details can only be guessed at, but when Hansen headed back to Merrill Field, he never had passengers.
Like many serial killers, Hansen was very methodical. On his aviation chart, he marked many of the locations where he buried his victims. The Knik River was a favourite location - close to town yet remote, with hundreds of sandbars to land his plane on.
Hansen was a "trophy collector", another common attribute of serial killers. His den was loaded with mounts from his legitimate hunts, while his basement was the storage space for the trophies from his human victims. It was largely this trophy collection that resulted in his successful conviction - among the significant items, he had kept a fish necklace that had been custom-made for victim Andrea Altiery.
The turning point in the case occurred in September 1983 when one of Hansen's rape victims agreed to testify. The police hoped that by tying this case in with several others, they could put him away at least for a few years.
The investigation of the disappearing women, which had now brought Bob Hansen into sharp focus, was hampered by attitude problems in both the Anchorage Police Department (APD), and in the DA's office. When an APD officer took his information on the case to the State Troopers, he was bawled out for it. When the Troopers were trying to draw up documents for searches of Hansen's property, they were told by the DA's office that they had no time to do it - a personal favour brought the Assistant DA from Fairbanks down to do it.
On October 27, 1983, Hansen's cowardly life prowling the streets of Anchorage ended. Armed with several search warrants, police went through the Hansen family's house, cars and plane, vacuuming, photographing, sketching and seizing evidence. Robert Christian Hansen was arrested and charged with assault, kidnapping, weapons offenses, theft and insurance fraud. Bail was set at a half-million dollars.
Over the next few months, enough evidence had been assembled to charge Hansen with 4 murders. As part of a plea bargain, Hansen agreed to show police where the graves of the murdered women were. Only 11 were located though (one more was found later).
On February 27, 1984, Superior Court Judge Ralph E. Moody sentenced Hansen to 461 years plus life, without chance of parole. He was initially sent to the maximum security facility at Lewisburg, PA, but in 1988 he was returned to Alaska. He became one of the first prisoners in the new Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, where he remains today.
Although the Pope & Young people initially stated that Hansen's crimes did not invalidate his bowhunting records, they have since removed his name from their record books. Bob's wife and 2 children tried to remain in Alaska, but after 2 years of having the children harassed at school, Mrs. Hansen filed for divorce and they moved to the Lower 48.
Robert Hansen (b. February 15, 1939 in Estherville, Iowa) is an American serial killer who flew his victims into the Alaskan wilderness and hunted them down like wild game.
Hansen, who as a child was small and sickly with perpetual acne and a severe stutter, spent much of his early life as a loner and a target for bullying from his peers and his strict, domineering father. He married in 1960.
On December 7 of that year, he was arrested for burning down a local school bus garage, a crime for which he served 20 months in prison. His wife divorced him while he was incarcerated. Over the next few years, he was jailed several more times for petty theft, and drifted through a series of menial jobs. In 1967, he moved to Anchorage, Alaska, seeking a fresh start with his second wife, whom he had married in 1963.
While he was well-liked by his neighbors and was famed as a local hunting champion, his life eventually fell into disarray again; in 1977, he was imprisoned for theft, diagnosed with bipolar-effective disorder, and prescribed lithium to control his mood swings.
He was never officially ordered to take the medication, however, and was released from prison after serving a year. By now the father of two children, Hansen opened his own bakery after his release, and was widely thought of as a pillar of his community.
He began killing prostitutes around 1980; he would pay them for sex and kidnap and rape them once they were in his power. He would then fly them out to his cabin in the Knik River Valley in his private plane, and stalk and kill them with a hunting knife and a .223-caliber Mini-14 rifle.
On June 13, 1983, one of his victims escaped, and told the Anchorage police what he had done to her. Hansen denied the accusations — notably saying that "you can't rape a prostitute" — and was not initially considered a serious suspect. Local police contacted the FBI and requested help after another body was found, and famed profiler John Douglas was brought in to assist the investigation.
Douglas theorized that the killer would be an experienced hunter with low self-esteem and a history of being rejected by women, and would feel compelled to keep "souvenirs" of his murders, such as a victim's jewelry or even body parts. He came to suspect Hansen upon learning of Hansen's hunting skill and socially isolated childhood.
Police searched Hansen's house on October 27, 1983, and found jewelry belonging to the victims, newspaper clippings about the murders, and an array of firearms — including a .223-caliber Mini-14 rifle. He was arrested and, days later, charged with assault, kidnapping, weapons offenses, theft and insurance fraud.
When ballistics tests returned matching bullets found at the crime scenes to Hansen's rifle, he entered into a plea bargain in which he pleaded guilty to the four homicides the police knew about and provided details about his other victims in return for serving his sentence in a federal prison. He then showed investigators 15 gravesites in the Knik River Valley, 12 of which police were unaware of. He was then sentenced to 461 years in prison plus life.
By many he was considered a model father and a hard-working baker. Robert Hansen turned out to be the most active serial killer in Alaskan history. From 1973 to 1983, this expert pilot and avid hunter would fly prostitutes and erotic dancers to his remote cabin hideaway in the Alaskan wilderness where he would then rape and murder them. After sexually abusing his helpless victims for a couple of days he would set them free in the freezing woods and then hunt them down with his high-powered hunting rifle as if they were deer.
Robert Hansen had a long police record starting when he was a teenager and he was convicted of arson. While living in Alaska he had several run-ins with the law involving larceny, assault with a deadly weapon, rape and kidnapping. However, he managed to get away with serving hardly any time for his crimes and lived a normal life as a married man and a hard working and respected member of the community.
The authorities first suspected Bob of being a murderer when a lucky prostitute dashed naked from his plane to escape certain death. While investigating the incident they discovered several other women of the night who had simmilar experiences with him. Soon Anchorage police started piecing together a picture of their prominent baker as a manic-depressive arsonist, kleptomaniac, rapist and possible serial killer.
When authorities first searched his home they found 30 hidden weapons as well as mementos and maps marking the location of the graves of his victims. Eventually Bob confessed to 17 killings which he referred to as his summertime project. Under heavy guard Hansen was flown by helicopter to the Knik River in the Alaskan wilderness where he pinpointed with great accuracy the location of several graves. In 1984 Bob was handed a sentence of 461 years plus life which he is now serving in the Lewisburg Federal Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania.
February 14, 2003 - by Paul Sutherland
Alaska is one of the last great frontiers - greater than France, Germany and Britain combined, but with a population smaller than Luxembourg. Anchorage is one such city within these thousands of square miles of wilderness that has a notorious Red Light district. Ever since the late 1970’s police had been receiving steady reports about missing prostitutes and topless dancers. Initially these disappearances caused little concern, as such girls were notorious for leaving at a moments notice, usually without telling anyone where they were going. However, police had grown concerned by the sheer number who had left high earning jobs mysteriously without a trace.
On 13 June 1983 a 19 yr old Anchorage prostitute called Cindy Paulson was touting for business on a street corner when she was approached by a pock marked, nervous looking small man who had a terrible stammer. When she agreed on a price with him, he asked for oral sex and she got into his pick up truck. As she was in the process of satisfying her client, she looked up and saw the barrel of a .357 magnum looking down at her. The man then produced a pair of handcuffs from underneath his seat and snapped them on to Cindy’s wrists. He then drove off through the leafy suburbs of Anchorage.
The truck eventually pulled up outside a large, blue-grey ranch style house, and the girl was forced inside. She was dragged down to a basement, and once down there, was confronted with a menagerie of icy stares. The basement walls were covered with sporting trophies. The man was a hunter. Cindy was handcuffed naked to a pillar in the centre of the room, and was repeatedly raped and sodomised for hours. The hunter then lay back on the sofa and fell asleep. When he finally awoke Cindy was made to dress, was re handcuffed and driven to the Merrill Field airport, where the truck pulled up alongside a small blue and white aircraft. On the way the hunter had told Cindy that they were going to fly up to the hunters cabin in the Alaskan wilderness. He boasted that he had taken lots of girls up there, “for fun”. Cindy saw her chance to escape as they arrived at the plane, and the hunter got out. She pushed through the driver’s door and ran towards the lights of Fifth Avenue. As she ran she could hear her captor shouting, “ Stop you bitch! Stop or I’ll kill you”. Cindy never looked back. As she reached the road she saw a truck’s headlights approaching her, and waved it down with her manacled hands. The driver, 36 yr old Robert Yount, slammed on his brakes, and Cindy clambered to safety.
Upon informing the Anchorage police, Cindy was taken to the Anchorage Humana hospital for an examination. The examination revealed vaginal bruising and shackle marks around her neck and wrists, corroborating her story of being abducted. She was then taken to Anchorage police headquarters to be interviewed. Cindy managed to give the police detailed descriptions of her assailant’s house, car, plane and looks. It did not take the police long to identify the man as 40 yr old Robert Hansen, a married baker who owned a thriving business in Anchorage.
Less than 2 hours after Cindy had made her escape, police arrived at Hansen’s home, and were confronted by a man who matched Cindy’s description exactly. The police informed Hansen of the nature of the allegations that had been made against him. He looked astonished and readily agreed to accompany the police to the station. Hansen was interviewed there by Officer William Dennis of the Anchorage PD Sexual Assault Unit.
He was co-operative, polite and did not demonstrate any characteristics that suggested his guilt, although he was strangely calm for someone falsely accused. Hansen gave a detailed account of his movements, claiming that his wife and family were away in Europe and that he had been with two friends, John Sumrall and John Henning, at the time he was accused of raping Cindy. Both men, when interviewed, backed up his story. Hansen readily agreed to police searching his house, car and aeroplane, and signed waivers agreeing to this.
When police searched these, it became clear from Cindy’s detailed descriptions that she had been inside the house and car at some time. However, it came down to the word of a respected local businessman with an alibi against that of a prostitute with a police record. It was Cindy’s refusal to take a lie detector test that convinced William Dennis that she was lying, and he closed the case. Officer Greg Baker, the policeman who had taken Cindy’s complaint though, was sure that Cindy had been telling the truth. However, it was not long before police took a more serious look at the Cindy Paulson case.
In July 1980, building workers discovered a shallow grave on Eklutna Lake Rd. It contained the half eaten body of a young woman, and police suspected that it may be one of the missing girls, but due to the appalling conditions of her decomposed body, positive identification proved impossible. Police made a facial reconstruction and it was widely publicised, but the victim was never identified. She became known to investigators as “Eklutna Annie”.
On 12 September 1982 hunters found a second shallow grave on the banks of the Knik River, which borders Anchorage. The remains were identified as that of 23 yr old topless dancer Sherry Morrow, who had been reported missing a year earlier. She had been shot in the back 3 times, and cartridges found near the body suggested that she had been shot with a .223 Ruger Mini-14 hunting rifle. An odd feature was that although the body was found fully clothed, there were no bullet holes in the clothing, suggesting that Sherry had been naked when shot, and had been redressed after death.
A year later, 2nd September 1983, 3 months after the rape and kidnap of Cindy Paulson, a third grave was found on the banks of the Knik River. The victim was identified as another of the missing topless dancers, 17 yr old Paula Goulding. She had been murdered in exactly the same way as Sherry Morrow, and had also been redressed after death. Anchorage police now had to face the fact that they had a serial killer in their midst.
Officer Greg Baker, the policeman who had investigated the Cindy Paulson case, had always harboured suspicions about Robert Hansen, and began a detailed search into Hansen’s background and personal life. At first, nothing was to be found. Eventually, it surfaced that Hansen had served sentences twelve years earlier, in 1971, for kidnap rape and assault with a deadly weapon.
A report detailing Baker’s suspicions and a copy of Hansen’s criminal record was sent to Sgt Glenn Flothe of the Alaska State Troopers, who was heading the “topless dancers” taskforce. Flothe agreed that Hansen should be considered a suspect, and he began his own investigation into Hansen’s background. The more he learnt, the more he became convinced he had found his killer, and Flothe decided to reopen the Cindy Paulson case, in an attempt to obtain evidence against Hansen.
Flothe reinterviewed Hansen’s friends Henning and Sumrall about Hansen’s alibi and informed them that he was threatening to charge them with perjury. The threat worked and both men admitted they had lied to help Hansen out of what they thought was an embarrassing domestic situation. When both men had retracted their statements, an order was issued for Hansen’s arrest.
At 8am on the 27 October 1983, Robert Hansen was arrested at his bakery and was taken to the Anchorage trooper station. There, Flothe had stage-managed an interview room following pointers from the FBI. Hansen was placed in an interview room that had been carefully set out. There were maps of the Knik River along the walls, pictures of the grave sites, the victims, on the desk. There were files and folders with the names of Hansen’s family, friends and acquaintances on them. He was left to sit in here alone for a while, in an attempt to make him stew, and was watched by Flothe through a two-way mirror. Hansen appeared more intrigued than concerned. A few minutes later Flothe and Sgt Darryl Galyan entered the room, and began an interview with Hansen that was to last 5 hours.
Whilst Hansen was being interviewed, a team of officers was searching his house. Behind wooden panelling in his trophy room police found items of cheap jewellery that was later traced back to the dead girls. Police also found a Ruger Mini-14 hunting rifle hidden under floorboards, which was later matched by ballistics as being the weapon that had killed Sherry Morrow and Paula Goulding. The most telling item found was an aviation map of the Anchorage region, which was dotted with 20 drawn on asterisks. Two of these corresponded with sites where bodies had been found, and a third indicated the spot where the body of Joanne Messina, a 24 yr old prostitute, was found in July 1980. Investigators later discovered that she had last been seen with a small, stammering man, with a pockmarked face.
Hansen initially denied any connection with the murders, but when confronted with the wealth of evidence against him, decided to confess. He admitted that the asterisks on the map were grave sites of prostitutes that he had murdered. Hansen claimed that he had not killed every girl he had taken up into the wilderness. He claimed that he only wanted oral sex, and if the girls complied, they were flown home. If they resisted, he would force them to strip at gunpoint, and then make them run. They would usually be given a head start, and then Hansen would stalk them like an animal. Chillingly, he would sometimes allow the victim to think she had escaped, but would then track her down and make her run again. This would continue until the victim was too cold and exhausted to continue running, when the victims would be shot. The redressing, Hansen claimed, was to satisfy his need for control and he likened it to a trophy.
On 27 February 1984 Robert Hansen was brought before Superior Court Judge Ralph Moody at the Anchorage State Court House. Hansen had pleaded guilty to four murders, and 13 others that he had not been formally charged with. Judge Moody sentenced Hansen, who had not shown a flicker of remorse, to 461 years plus life, without the possibility of parole. Hansen was then taken down. In less than 3 hours Hansen had been convicted and sentenced for his years of horrific crimes.
Writers of the Robert Hansen case have all commented on the trait he shares with many serial killers; an appallingly low level of self-esteem. He was born in the rural community of Ponahontas, Iowa, on February 15, 1939, and was an ugly and unpopular child. His peers targeted his stammer and running acne sores and he was bullied relentlessly. After leaving school, Hansen did marry, but his wife left him, and he became convinced that it was due to his ugliness. He married again, moved to Alaska and started his bakery business, and on the surface, had a happy marriage and successful business. Hansen and his wife were regular churchgoers, and were active members of the Lutheran church. Through this Hansen built up a great number of friends amongst the local prominent community.
He also began to indulge his passion for hunting, like his father had been, and became well known in Alaskan hunting circles, where he held a record for killing a big horned Dall sheep with a bow and arrow. When his father died Hansen inherited his gun collection, some 17 hunting rifles. Owning his own plane, which he was able to afford due to the success of his business, meant that he could get right into the heart of the wilderness, where the best game was to be found. He had a double life however, and had a craving for oral sex to be performed upon him by a docile woman.
Thus, his murderous fantasies began. Hansen claimed that his first victim was Joanne Messina, who he murdered in July 1980. He claimed he was violently sick after the killing. A few weeks following the Messina murder, he picked up an unidentified prostitute in Anchorage. When she refused his demand for oral sex, he chased her down Eklutna Rd and stabbed her to death. This victim was the unidentified woman known as “Eklutna Annie”. Hansen claimed he got an enjoyable pleasure from this killing, and from then on had a powerful fantasy about hunting down and killing a woman like an animal.
Although Hansen had refused to confirm whether or not he was responsible for the many disappearances, this is not to say he was uncooperative. He helped detectives to uncover where he had buried many of his victims. This was a task Hansen took to with a sickening relish. During a helicopter tour of the grave sites, he would frequently become excited and exhilarated, reliving the murders over and over in his head. Handcuffed, Hansen would plough through chest high snow drifts and triumphantly point out the grave of one of his victims. Sometimes, he would drop to his knees and dig furiously with his bare hands, wild eyed with a broad grin on his face. By the end of the summer of 1984, 11 bodies had been found, 10 of which had been formally identified.
Robert Hansen remains incarcerated to this day, as he has been denied the possibility of parole. Occasionally, a hunter in the Alaskan wilderness will find a corpse, and Hansen will be questioned over it, in an attempt to determine if it is another of his victims. His wife has remarried and moved away, and Hansen’s surviving family has no contact with him. Hansen is left to replay every sickening detail of his hunts over and over in his head, a pastime he thoroughly enjoys.
By David Lohr
The state motto for Alaska is "North to the Future," but if you ask anyone who has ever been there, they will probably describe it as the last American frontier. Even though it is the biggest state in the country (2.3 times the size of Texas) the population consists of only 634,892 residents, ranking it 47 among all other U.S. territories. Nonetheless, there is no other place like it on earth. The terrain consists of beautiful ocean coasts, rushing rivers, magnificent mountain peaks, famous glaciers, temperate rain forests, and an abundance of wildlife. A piece of America that continues to offer residents and visitors alike a pure wilderness experience.
The Knik River valley is a preferred hunting ground for veteran trophy hunters. Just twenty-five miles from the city of Anchorage, the winding gorge—carved by prehistoric glacial ice—makes it a perfect place to find mountain goats, Dall sheep, black bears, and moose. On September 12, 1982, John Daily and Audi Holloway, two off-duty Anchorage police officers, spent an afternoon hunting along the Knik River.
According to Butcher Baker by Walter Gilmour and Leland E. Hale, the two men had little luck and as darkness began to fall they decided to call it a day. The trek was not necessarily easy, but both men were familiar with the area and cut across a wide sandbar. However, as they progressed up the river, they noticed a boot sticking out of the sand. Normally a find like this would not be cause for concern, but for any police officer, curiosity denotes investigation. Upon closer inspection, the two men were taken aback. Sticking out of the sand was a partially decomposed bone joint. Once their minds registered what they were looking at, both men backed up from the scene. The last thing they wanted to do was disturb or contaminate any evidence. After making note of the location, both men made their way out of the gorge and back to their camp.
Gilmour and Hale wrote that Sergeant Rollie Port was assigned to cover the investigation. A decorated Vietnam veteran, Port was considered one of the top investigators on the force. He was meticulous with every crime scene and was known to spend hours going over the smallest area. Before disturbing the body, Port had photographs taken from every angle and carefully examined the body itself for trace evidence before having it bagged. Afterwards, he pulled out a large screen and began sifting through the sand around the body. It took several hours for him to finish sifting, but in the end it paid off. Lying on the screen before him was a single shell casing from a .223-caliber bullet. Port was familiar with this type of ammunition and knew that it was used in high-powered rifles like M-16s, Mini-14s, or AR-15s.
Back in Anchorage, a preliminary autopsy revealed that the victim was a female, of undetermined age, and had been dead for approximately six months. The cause of death was three gunshot wounds from .223-caliber bullets. Ace bandages were found mingled in with the remains, causing investigators to suspect that the victim had been blindfolded at the time of death. It took a little over two weeks to finally identify the body as that of 24-year-old Sherry Morrow, a dancer from the Wild Cherry Bar in downtown Anchorage. She was last seen on November 17, 1981. According to friends, she was going to see a man that had offered her $300 to pose for some pictures.
Anchorage police had a sneaking suspicion that Sherry Morrow's murder was not an isolated incident. Over the last two years, there was a sudden increase in the number of missing persons reports being filed, many of which were topless dancers and prostitutes. Prior to this latest discovery, the reports had not prompted much attention. Prostitutes tend to be loners and often travel from city to city, only to reappear years later. If there was a link, investigators did not want to tip the killer off. Any concerns they had were kept private.
When discussing Morrow's murder with The Anchorage Daily News, investigators said they doubted that it was related to the disappearance of at least three other women since 1980. "We don't believe we have a mass murderer out there, some psycho knocking off girls," said Anchorage police detective Maxine Farrell.
Alaska State Trooper sergeant Lyle Haugsven was assigned to determine whether or not Sherry Morrow's murder was an isolated incident. Working with the Anchorage Police Department, the two agencies began sharing files and comparing notes. According to Bernard DuClos in Fair Game, the first indication of a possible link appeared to be with two unsolved cases from 1980. In the first case, construction workers digging near Eklutna Road discovered the partial remains of a woman buried in a shallow grave. Animals had taken off with a majority of the remains and there was very little evidence at the scene. The victim had never been identified and was dubbed "Eklutna Annie" by police assigned to the case. Later that same year, another body was found in a nearby gravel pit. The victim was later identified as Joanne Messina, a local topless dancer. Unfortunately, her body was badly decomposed and, as with "Eklutna Annie", there was little evidence to be found. In the end, Haugsven had few leads to follow and very little evidence at his disposal.
As months passed, hope of catching the killer began to diminish. Then, on the night of June 13, 1983, everything seemed to turn around. Earlier that evening, a trucker was passing through town when he noticed a frantic young female waving her arms and calling out to him. The girl had a pair of handcuffs dangling from one of her wrists and her clothing was disheveled. She told the trucker that a man was after her and asked him to take her to the Big Timber Motel. Once inside, she had the front desk clerk place a call for her. As she waited outside for her pimp, the truck driver drove straight to the Anchorage Police Department and reported the incident.
When Anchorage Police Officer Gregg Baker arrived at the Big Timber Motel, he found the girl alone and still in handcuffs. Once he removed her cuffs, she began telling him an extraordinary story. According to reports she gave to investigators, she had been approached on the street by a 40ish, red-haired man, and offered $200 for oral sex. She agreed to the price, but midway through the act the man locked a handcuff around her wrist and pulled out a gun. He told her if she cooperated he would not kill her. He then drove to his house in Muldoon, an upper class area not far from town. Once inside, the man brutally raped her, bit her nipples, and at one point shoved a hammer into her vagina. After a brief rest, the man said that he was going to fly her to his cabin in the mountains and told her he would let her go if she cooperated. Upon their arrival at the airport, her kidnapper shoved her inside a small plane and began loading supplies. The young prostitute knew she was in serious trouble and that the man would probably kill her once they got to his cabin. Waiting until his back was turned, she shoved open the door and ran for her life. According to her, he chased after her at first, but then relented when he saw her wave down the truck driver.
A Suspect Emerges
After making a formal statement at police headquarters, investigators drove the young prostitute to Merrill Field, the airport where she had been taken. They were hoping she could identify her abductor's plane. As they drove through the small airport, she spotted a blue-and-white Piper Super Cub, tail number N3089Z and identified the plane. A check with the flight tower revealed that the plane belonged to Robert C. Hansen, who lived on Old Harbor Road.
Gilmour and Hale wrote that after dropping the woman off at the hospital, Baker and a group of fellow officers went directly to Hansen's house. Hansen became outraged when confronted with the young woman's charges. He claimed to have never met the girl and stated that she was probably trying to shake him down for money. To him, the entire story was absurd. "You can't rape a prostitute can you?" he said. Hansen went on to state that his wife and two children were vacationing in Europe and said that he had spent the entire evening with two friends. His alibi checked out and no formal charges were filed.
Just as things seemed to be calming down again, investigators were called to the scene of another grisly discovery. According to reports in The Anchorage Daily News on September 2, 1983, just 10 days shy of the one-year anniversary of discovering Sherry Morrow, another body was found along Knik River. The remains were partially decomposed and buried in a shallow grave. The victim, later identified as 17-year-old Paula Golding, was a topless dancer and prostitute from Anchorage. She'd gone missing some five months earlier. An autopsy revealed that she had been shot with a .223-caliber bullet.
Investigators were now convinced they had a serial killer on their hands and contacted the FBI for assistance. This was not the first time Alaska authorities had dealt with a serial killer, but their last attempt was not successful. Between 1979 and 1981, serial killer Thomas Richard Bunday murdered at least five Fairbanks-area women. When police finally discovered who their killer was, he was already on the run. Just one hour after his arrest warrant was issued, he committed suicide by plowing his motorcycle head-on into a truck.
The FBI was known for its dogged determination in serial murder investigations and everyone seemed to agree on asking for their assistance. In response to Anchorage's request for help, the FBI's Investigative Support Unit sent Special Agent John Douglas, a legendary figure in law enforcement, to help profile Alaska's latest serial killer. Many local investigators felt that Robert Hansen was still a viable suspect and were anxious to share their suspicions with Douglas.
In his 1996 book Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit, John Douglas describes his initial profile of Alaska's suspected serial murderer. According to Douglas, the perpetrator specifically chose prostitutes and topless dancers, because the majority were transients and usually went unnoticed. Upon the urging of local investigators, Douglas began looking into Robert Hansen's background. He took note of the fact that Hansen was of small stature, heavily pockmarked and suffered from a severe speech impediment. Due to Hansen's unsightly looks, Douglas surmised that he suffered from severe skin problems as an adolescent and was probably teased by his peers. In turn, he would have low self-esteem, which would have prompted him to live in an isolated area. Douglas considered the abuse of prostitutes a way for perpetrators to get back at women. If Hansen was the killer, he was probably using them as a way to get his revenge. Several investigators were familiar with Hansen and said that he was known around the area as a proficient hunter. He earned this reputation after taking down a wild Dall sheep with a crossbow. Perhaps, Douglas surmised, Robert Hansen tired of elk, bear and Dall sheep, and had instead turned his attention to more interesting prey. As the profile progressed, Douglas told investigators that if Hansen was the killer, he was probably a "saver" and would be keeping small souvenirs from his victims.
The only way to rule Hansen out as a suspect would be for investigators to find a hole in his alibi. Douglas suspected that his friends were lying for him and encouraged investigators to threaten them with charges if they were found to be lying. State Police sergeant Glenn Flothe decided to bring the men in for questioning. As it turned out, the strategy worked and both men confessed and said that they had not been with Robert Hansen on the night the young prostitute was abducted and brought to the airport. Investigators also learned from Hansen's friends that he was committing insurance fraud. Apparently, a burglary he reported to police in which several items were stolen from his home never occurred and Hansen was hiding the items in his basement. After learning of Hansen's deceit, Flothe went before Judge Victor Carlson with a 48-page affidavit and secured eight search warrants to be executed against Robert Hanson and his property.
On October 27, 1983, investigators followed Hansen to work and asked him to come with them to the police station for questioning. Hansen never bothered to ask why they wanted to talk to him and agreed to go along. Simultaneously, two groups of investigators served warrants on Hansen's house and plane. According to the book Hunting Humans by Michael Newton, investigators found weapons throughout the house, but nothing to implicate Hansen in any of the murders. Then, just as they were about to call it a day, one of the officers discovered a hidden space tucked away in the attic rafters. Within it, they discovered a Remington 552 rifle; a Thompson contender 7-mm single-shot pistol; an aviation map, with specific locations marked off; various pieces of jewelry; newspaper clippings; a Winchester 12-gauge shotgun; a driver's license, and various ID cards, some of which belonged to the dead women. As incriminating as these items were, the most important piece of evidence was found last -- a .223-caliber Mini-14 rifle.
A Killer's Past
Robert Christian Hansen was born on February 15, 1939, in Esterville, Iowa to Christian Hansen, a Danish immigrant baker and his wife Edna. DuClos wrote that Hansen had a difficult upbringing. His father was very strict and insisted that his son work long hours in the family's bakery. Adding to this ever-present strain, he was always considered small for his age and his face bore severe acne sores all throughout his adolescence. In later years, he would recall his face as "one big pimple." Although he was naturally left-handed, his parents forced him to use his right hand. In later years, he would claim that the resulting stress made his slight stuttering problem even worse. He had very few friends in school and those he did have never got close to him. In 1957, Hansen graduated high school and shortly thereafter enlisted in the Army Reserves. Following basic training, he was required to devote one weekend a month to the military. He spent the rest of his time working in his father's bakery and sometimes volunteering as a Pocahontas Junior Police drill instructor. During 1960, he fell in love with and married a local girl.
The first major event in Robert Hansen's life occurred on December 7, 1960. As retribution for perceived abuses by the people of Pocahantas, Iowa, he burned down the school bus garage. Unfortunately for Hansen, a friend turned him in and he was sentenced to three years in prison. His wife was ashamed of her husband's actions and immediately filed for divorce. After serving only 20 months, Hansen was paroled, despite being assessed as having an "infantile personality."
Shortly after his release, he met a young woman. The two hit it off and were wed in the fall of 1963. For the next few years, Hansen bounced from job to job and was arrested several times for petty thefts. In 1967, he decided it was time for a new start and left for Alaska.
Anchorage appeared to be the perfect getaway for Robert Hansen. Gilmour and Hale wrote that he was treated well by the residents and soon earned a reputation as a great outdoorsman and hunter. He would stalk Dahl sheep, wolves, and bear with a rifle or bow and arrow. In 1969, 1970 and 1971, he had four animals entered into Pope & Young's trophy hunting world-record books. Hansen's den was soon loaded with animal mounts.
Nonetheless, all his good fortune was short lived. In 1977 he was arrested for stealing a chainsaw and sentenced to five years in prison. After a customary mental evaluation, a prison psychiatrist concluded that Hansen suffered from "bipolar-effective disorder" and requested that the courts order him to take lithium to control his mood swings. Regardless, the order was never enforced and Hansen was released after serving just one year.
During the early 1980s Hansen reported a burglary to his home, which in the end netted him $13,000 from the insurance company. Shortly after receiving his settlement, Hansen opened his own bakery at the corner of 9th and Ingra. By this time, Hansen and his wife had two children and his problems with the law were all but forgotten. His business prospered and he was considered a successful and respected member of the community.
Back at State Police Headquarters, Hansen denied any involvement in the murders. After a brief game of cat and mouse, he grew tired of the allegations and requested an attorney. Hansen was then placed under arrest and charged with assault, kidnapping, weapons offenses, theft and insurance fraud.
On November 3, 1983, an Anchorage grand jury returned four indictments against Hansen: first-degree assault and kidnapping, five counts of misconduct in possession of a handgun, theft in the second-degree, and theft by deception in insurance fraud. Investigators were still awaiting the ballistic test results on Hansen's rifle, so the state decided to hold off on charging him with murder. Hansen pleaded not guilty to all charges. Bail was set at a half-million dollars.
Newton wrote that the ballistic test results finally came in on November 20, 1983. The FBI crime lab in Washington, D.C., determined that the shell casings found at the gravesites had all been fired from Hansen's rifle. The firing pin and the extractor markings were identical.
Given the mass of evidence building against him, Hansen realized that the chances of him winning in court were slim. So, on February 22, 1984, Hansen had his defense attorney, Fred Dewey, arranged a meeting with Anchorage D. A. Victor Krumm. During the meeting, Krumm offered Hansen a deal. In exchange for a full confession, the D.A. guaranteed him that he would only be charged with the four cases that they knew of, and he would be able to serve his time in a federal facility, rather than a maximum-security institution. Hansen reluctantly agreed to the conditions.
After both sides signed off on the agreement, Hansen began describing one of his typical abductions. The following transcript, which has been edited for space, was originally published in Gilmour and Hale's book: "I pull out the gun—I think the standard speech was, 'Look you're a professional. You don't get excited, you know there is some risk to what you've been doing. If you do exactly what I tell you you're not going to get hurt. You're just going to count this off as a bad experience and be a little more careful next time who you are gonna proposition or go out with,' you know. I tried to act as tough as I could, to get them as scared as possible. Give that right away, even before I started talking at all. Reach over, you know, and hold that head back and put a gun in her face and get 'em to feel helpless, scared, right there I'm sure--maybe it's not the same procedure for you--you always try to get control of the situation, so some things don't start going bad maybe I've seen some cop shows on TV, I don't know, OK?"
Whenever Hansen got a victim under his control, he would normally take her to his plane and fly them out to his remote cabin. According to Newton, he would brutally rape and torture the women. Afterwards, he would strip them naked, sometimes going so far as blindfolding them, and set them free in the woods. Hansen would give his victim a brief head start and then hunt them down with a hunting knife or a high-powered rifle. In describing his hunts to investigators, Hansen said that it was like "going after a trophy Dall sheep or a grizzly bear."
When investigators first heard Hansen's confession, they couldn't help but think of the popular fictional story "The Most Dangerous Game" by writer Richard Connell. The story is about a shipwrecked trio that find themselves stranded on an uncharted island, where they meet a Russian Count, known only as General Zaroff. The group is initially delighted to find someone else on the island, but their happiness turns to sorrow when they realize that the shipwreck was no accident and the good general had lured them there so he could hunt them down. Up until the early 1980s, Richard Connell's story was a work of fiction, the product of one man's imagination. Robert Hansen was conducting a real life version of "The Most Dangerous Game."
As the interview neared its end, Hansen was provided with a large aerial map of the region. He identified 15 gravesites, 12 of which were unknown to investigators. Since it would have been nearly impossible to locate any of the graves going by Hansen's checkmarks on the map, investigators decided to fly him to each location. The following day, Hansen accompanied the men to the Anchorage International Airport, where they boarded a large military helicopter. Their first stop was along the Knick River, not far from where Paula Goulding was found. Afterwards, they flew east to Jim Creek, and then west toward Susitna. Their final stops were due south, at Horseshoe Lake and Figure Eight Lake. At every stop, Hansen led investigators to the site, now heavily covered in snow, and they would mark the trees with orange paint. By the end of the day Hansen had revealed the gravesites of 12 unknown women.
According to articles published by The Anchorage Daily News, Robert Hansen pled guilty on February18, 1984, to four counts of first-degree murder in the cases of Paula Golding, Joanna Messina, Sherry Morrow, and "Eklutna Annie." One week later, on February 27, Superior Court Judge Ralph E. Moody sentenced Hansen to 461 years plus life, without chance of parole. He was then remanded to Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary in
By May 1984, investigators had found seven bodies at the gravesites Robert Hansen pointed out to them. No other bodies were ever recovered. The summary went as follows:
On April 24, Sue Luna - Knik River.
On April 24, Malai Larsen - parking area by old Knik bridge.
On April 25, DeLynn Frey - Horseshoe Lake.
On April 26, Teresa Watson - Kenai Peninsula.
On April 26, Angela Feddern - Figure Eight Lake.
On April 29, Tamara Pederson - one and a half miles from old Knik Bridge.
On May 9, Lisa Futrell's - south of old Knik Bridge.
In 1988, Hansen was returned to Alaska and became one of the first inmates in the new Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, where he remains today. Shortly after his conviction, the record keepers for Pope & Young removed Hansen's name from their record books. Hansen's wife and two children tried to remain in Alaska, but after two years of harassment, his second wife filed for divorce and left Alaska for good.
Conservationist Gareth Patterson recently published an article on his website entitled "The Killing Fields." In the piece, Patterson compared the similarities between trophy animal hunters and serial killers. "Certainly one could state that, like the serial killer, the trophy hunter plans his killing with considerable care and deliberation. Like the serial killer, he decides well in advance the type of victim--that is, which species he intends to target. Also like the serial killer, the trophy hunter plans with great care where and how the killing will take place--in what area, with what weapon. What the serial killer and trophy hunter also share is a compulsion to collect trophies or souvenirs of their killings. The serial killer retains certain body parts and/or other trophies for much the same reason as the big game hunter mounts the head and antlers taken from his prey...as trophies of the chase," he said.
On February 21, 2003, more than 20 years after her decomposed body was found, Alaska State Troopers asked for the public's help in identifying "Eklutna Annie." In an effort to help solve her identity, state police released information regarding her clothing and jewelry.
According to the report, which was published by Kenai Peninsula News, an Alaska newspaper, the victim was a white brunette in her 20s. When found, Annie was wearing knee-high, reddish-brown, high-heeled boots, jeans, a sleeveless knit top and a brown leather jacket. Troopers were also hoping that someone might recognize her jewelry; a silver cuff bracelet with polished stones, possibly handmade.