Robert Hansen

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Robert Hansen

Mug shot of Robert Hansen
Background information
Birth nameRobert Christian Hansen
Born(1939-02-15) February 15, 1939 (age 73)
Estherville, Iowa
Penalty461 years in prison
Killings
Number of victims17–21
CountryU.S.
State(s)Alaska
Date apprehendedJune 13, 1983
 
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Robert Hansen

Mug shot of Robert Hansen
Background information
Birth nameRobert Christian Hansen
Born(1939-02-15) February 15, 1939 (age 73)
Estherville, Iowa
Penalty461 years in prison
Killings
Number of victims17–21
CountryU.S.
State(s)Alaska
Date apprehendedJune 13, 1983

Robert Christian Hansen (born on February 15, 1939) is an American serial killer. Between 1980 and 1983, Hansen murdered between 17 and 21 women near Anchorage, Alaska. He was convicted in 1983 and is currently serving 461 years in Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, Alaska.

Contents

Early life

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 dysfunctional relationship with his domineering father. He was frequently bullied at school for his perpetual acne and his severe stutter.[1]:5 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 Pocahontas County Board of Education school bus garage, for which he served 20 months of a three-year prison sentence in Anamosa State prison. 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.[1]:5

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,[1] and was released from prison after serving a year. Father of two children by then, Hansen opened a bakery after his release.

Discovery

On June 13, 1983, 17-year-old Cindy Paulson escaped from Robert Hansen while he was trying to load her into his Piper Super Cub. She told police that she had been offered $200 to perform oral sex, but when she got into the car Hansen pulled a gun on her and drove her to his home in Muldoon where he held her captive torturing, raping and sexually assaulting her. She mentioned that, after being chained by the neck to a post in the house's basement, Hansen took a nap on a nearby couch. When he awoke he put her in his car and took her to Merrill Field airport where he told her that he intended to "take her out to his cabin" (although, he did not really have a cabin—it was instead a meat shack in the Knik River area of the Matanuska Valley accessible only by boat or bush plane). Paulson (with her wrists cuffed in front of her body and crouching in the back seat of the car) waited until Hanson was busy loading the airplane's cockpit to make a run for it. While Hansen's back was turned, Paulson crawled out of the back seat and opened the driver's side door and took off running toward nearby 6th Avenue. She later told police that she'd left her blue sneakers on the passenger side floor of the sedan's backseat as evidence that she'd in fact been in the car. Hanson panicked and ran after her, but Paulson made it to 6th Avenue first and managed to flag down a passing truck. The driver, alarmed by her disheveled appearance, stopped and picked her up. He drove her, upon request, to the Mush Inn where she jumped out of the truck and ran inside. While she pleaded with the clerk to phone her boyfriend at the Big Timber Motel, the truck driver continued on to work where he called the police to report the barefoot, handcuffed woman. When Anchorage Police Department officers arrived at the Mush Inn they were told that the young woman had taken a cab to the Big Timber Motel. APD officers arrived at room 110 of the Big Timber Motel and found Cindy Paulson, still handcuffed, and alone. She was taken to APD headquarters where she identified Hansen as the perpetrator.[2] Hansen, when questioned by APD officers, denied the accusation stating that Paulson was just trying to cause some trouble because he wouldn't pay her extortion demands. Although Hansen had had several prior run-ins with the law, his meek demeanor and humble occupation as a baker, along with a strong alibi from his friend John Henning kept him from being considered as a serious suspect, and the case fell cold.

Detective Glenn Flothe of the Alaska State Troopers had been part of a team investigating the discovery of several bodies in and around Anchorage, Seward and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley area. The first of the bodies was found by construction workers near Eklutna Road. The body, dubbed "Eklutna Annie" by investigators, has never been identified. Later that year, the body of Joanna Messina was discovered in a gravel pit near Seward, and in the year following (1982) the remains of 23 year old Sherry Morrow were discovered in a shallow grave near the Knik River. Flothe now had 3 bodies and what looked like one killer. He contacted Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Roy Hazelwood and requested help with a criminal psychological profile based on the three recovered bodies. 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. He also suggested the assailant might stutter. All of these qualities, and the fact that he owned a plane, lead Flothe right to Cindy Paulson's attacker, Robert Hansen.

Supported by Paulson's testimony and Hazelwood's profile, Flothe and the APD secured a warrant to search Hansen's plane, cars and home. On October 27, 1983 investigators uncovered jewelry belonging to some of the missing women as well as an array of firearms [1] in a corner hideaway of Hansen's attic, but the biggest find was an aviation map with little x marks on it hidden behind Hansen's headboard.

When confronted with the overwhelming evidence found in his home Hansen became irate. He denied it as long as he could, but eventually, after starting to feel trapped, he began to blame the women and tried to justify his motives. Eventually, confessing to each item of evidence as it was presented to him, he admitted to a spree of attacks against Alaskan women starting as early as 1971. In a strange twist (and unlike his "justifications"), Hansen's earliest victims were young women, usually between 16 and 19, and not the prostitutes and strippers who led to his discovery. Hanson's cravings for torture and power had landed him in jail many times before, but he continually slipped through the system. It has never been confirmed that Hansen would "hunt" his victims although in the cases of Sherry Morrow and Sue Luna both women were shot in the back while running, leading some to suggest this. However, Hansen was clumsy and often underestimated the extent his victims would go to survive. When in doubt, he shot to kill, but didn't necessarily seem to hunt his human victims.[citation needed]

Known victims

Robert C. Hansen raped and assaulted over 30 Alaskan women. He is responsible for the murder of at least 17, ranging in age from 16 to 41 they were:


Of these 17 women, Hansen has only formally been charged with the murder of 4; Sherry Morrow, Joanna Messina, Eklutna Annie and Andrea Altiery, as well as the kidnapping and rape of Cindy Paulson.

Imprisonment

Spring Creek Correctional Center, where Hansen is incarcerated

When arrested, Hansen was 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). Only after ballistics tests returned a match between bullets found at the crime scenes and Hansen's rifle, did he enter into a plea bargain. He pled guilty to the four homicides the police had evidence for (Marrow, Messina, Altiery & Eklutna Annie) and provided details about his other victims in return for serving his sentence in a federal prison along with no publicity in the press. Another condition of the plea bargain included his full participation in deciphering the markings on his aviation map and locating his victim's bodies. He confirmed 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 in the early 1970s. He showed investigators a total of 17 grave sites, 12 of which were unknown to investigators, in and around Southcentral Alaska. However, there remained marks on his map that he refused to give up, including 3 in icy Resurrection Bay (authorities suspect two of these marks belong to the graves of Mary Thill and Megan Emrick, women Hansen refused to admit to because they were not strippers or street girls, and admitting to their murders would compromise his magical thinking). The remains of 11 (of a probable 21) victims were exhumed by the police and returned to their families. Hansen was sentenced, by jury, 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.[citation needed] He is currently imprisoned at Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward.[3]

In film, TV and literature

Actor John Cusack is set to portray Hansen in the upcoming film The Frozen Ground. He will work opposite Nicolas Cage as Alaska State Troopers Sergeant Jack Halcombe and Vanessa Hudgens as Cindy Paulson.[4] The film is scheduled for release in November 2012.[5]

An episode of the Discovery Channel TV series The FBI Files entitled "Hunter's Game" and an episode of the Investigation Discovery TV series "Alaska: Ice Cold Killers"[6] have depicted his murderous rampage. A 2012 episode of the Travel Channel series Hidden City on the city of Anchorage covered the Robert Hansen case. Two episodes of the CBS TV series Cold Case, entitled "Mindhunters" and "The Woods," depicted a serial killer called George Marks with a very similar Modus Operandi to Hansen's. 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 episode of the NBC TV series "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit", entitled "Hunting Ground," depicted a serial killer who hunted prostitutes ranging in age from 16 on up. The man called Brewster would hunt these girls in the wilderness until they wore themselves out, kill them and then dump their bodies at a beach. At least 11 were found, one girl got away and another was rescued.

Biologist and author Lynn Schooler's memoir, Blue Bear (Harper Collins, 2002), deals in part with the death of a female friend who was murdered by Hansen.

References

  1. ^ a b c d Lohr, David. "Hunting Humans". truTV Crime Library. http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/weird/robert_hansen/index.html. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  2. ^ "ExploreNorth – Robert Hansen, A Serial Killer in Alaska". Explorenorth.com. http://www.explorenorth.com/library/weekly/aa021100a.htm. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  3. ^ Halpin, James."Cold case warms up." Anchorage Daily News. September 28, 2008. Retrieved on August 15, 2010.
  4. ^ Staskiewics (August 12, 2011). "Serial Killer on the Big Screen". 
  5. ^ IMDb.com
  6. ^ IMDb.com

External links