Mugshot of Robert Hansen
Robert Christian Hansen
February 15, 1939
|Died||August 21, 2014 (aged 75)|
|Other names||The Butcher Baker|
|Spouse(s)||(m. 1960–62, divorced)|
(m. 1963–2014, his death)
|Parent(s)||Christian Hansen (father)|
Edna Hansen (mother)
|Conviction(s)||February 18, 1984|
|Criminal charge||Arson, assault, kidnapping, weapons offenses, theft, insurance fraud, murder, rape|
|Penalty||461 years in prison|
Span of crimes
|Imprisoned at||Spring Creek Correctional Center, Seward, Alaska (until his death)|
Robert Christian Hansen (February 15, 1939 – August 21, 2014), known in the media as the "Butcher Baker", was an American serial killer. Between 1971 and 1983, Hansen abducted, raped, and murdered at least 17 women in and around Anchorage, Alaska; he hunted many of them down in the wilderness with a Ruger Mini-14 and a knife. He was arrested and convicted in 1983, and was sentenced to 461 years and a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Robert Hansen was born in Estherville, Iowa, in 1939. He was the son of a Danish immigrant and followed in his father's footsteps as a baker. In his youth, he was skinny and painfully shy, afflicted with a stutter and severe acne that left him permanently scarred. Shunned by the attractive girls in school, he grew up hating them and nursing fantasies of cruel revenge. Throughout childhood and adolescence, Hansen was described as being quiet and a loner, and he had a difficult relationship with his domineering father. Hansen started to practice both hunting and archery, and often found refuge in these pastimes.
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. There, he began a relationship with a younger woman. He married her in the summer of 1960.
On December 7, 1960, 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 Penitentiary. During his incarceration, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (at that time called “manic depression”) with periodic schizophrenic episodes. The psychiatrist who made the diagnosis noted that Hansen had an “infantile personality” and was obsessed with taking revenge against people he felt had wronged him. Hansen’s wife filed for divorce 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 and with whom he had two children. In Anchorage, he was well liked by his neighbors and set several local hunting records.
In 1972, Hansen was convicted of assault; he was placed on a work release program after serving six months in prison. In 1976, Hansen pleaded guilty to larceny after he was caught stealing a chainsaw from an Anchorage department store; he was sentenced to five years in prison and required to receive psychiatric treatment for his bipolar disorder. The Alaska Supreme Court reduced his sentence, and he was released with time served.
On June 13, 1983, 17-year-old Cindy Paulson escaped from Hansen, while he was trying to load her into his Piper Super Cub. She told police he had offered her $200 to perform oral sex but that, when she got into the car, he pulled a gun on her and drove her to his home in Muldoon. There, he held her captive, tortured, raped, and sexually assaulted her. She mentioned that, after he chained her 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" (a shack in the Knik River area of the Matanuska Valley accessible only by boat or bush plane). Paulson, crouched in the back seat of the car with her wrists cuffed in front of her body, saw a chance to escape when Hansen was busy loading the airplane's cockpit. While Hansen's back was turned, Paulson crawled out of the back seat, opened the driver's side door, and ran toward nearby Sixth Avenue.
She later told police that she had left her blue sneakers on the passenger side floor of the sedan's backseat, as evidence that she had been in the car. Hansen panicked and chased her, but Paulson made it to Sixth Avenue first and managed to flag down a passing truck. The driver, Robert Yount, alarmed by Paulson's disheveled appearance, stopped and picked her up. He drove her 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 described the perpetrator. Hansen, when questioned by APD officers, denied the accusation, stating that Paulson was just trying to cause some trouble because he would not pay her extortion demands. Although Hansen had several prior run-ins with the law, his meek demeanour 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 went 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 1982, the remains of 23-year-old Sherry Morrow were discovered, in a shallow grave near the Knik River. Flothe now had three bodies and what looked like one killer.
He contacted Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Roy Hazelwood and requested help with a criminal psychological profile, based on the three recovered bodies. Hazelwood thought 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 that the assailant might stutter. Using this profile, Flothe investigated possible suspects until he reached Hansen, who fit the profile and owned a plane.
Supported by Paulson's testimony and Hazelwood's profile, Flothe and the APD secured a warrant to search Hansen's plane, vehicles, and home. On October 27, 1983, investigators uncovered jewelry belonging to some of the missing women as well as an array of firearms in a corner hideaway of Hansen's attic. Also found was an aviation map with little "x" marks on it, hidden behind Hansen's headboard. Many of these marks matched sites where prior bodies had been found (others were discovered later at those then unexplored).
When confronted with the evidence found in his home, Hansen denied it as long as he could, but he eventually began to blame the women and tried to justify his actions. Eventually confessing to each item of evidence as it was presented to him, he admitted to a spree of attacks against Alaskan women starting in 1971. Hansen's earliest victims were young women, usually between 16 and 19 and not sex workers, unlike the victims who led to his discovery.
Hansen is known to have raped and assaulted over 30 Alaskan women, and to have murdered at least 17, ranging in age from 16 to 41. They were:
- Lisa Futrell, 41 (acknowledged, body found with Hansen's help)
- Malai Larsen, 28 (acknowledged, body found with Hansen's help)
- Sue Luna, 23 (acknowledged, body found with Hansen's help)
- Tami Pederson, 20 (acknowledged, body found with Hansen's help)
- Angela Feddern, 24 (acknowledged, body found with Hansen's help)
- Teresa Watson (acknowledged, body found with Hansen's help)
- DeLynn "Sugar" Frey (acknowledged, body discovered on August 20, 1985 by a pilot testing new tires on the sandbar of the Knik River)
- Paula Goulding (acknowledged, body found)
- Andrea "Fish" Altiery (admitted, body not found)
- Sherry Morrow, 23 (admitted, body found)
- "Eklutna Annie" (admitted, body found, true identity has never been discovered)
- Joanna Messina (admitted, body found)
- "Horseshoe Harriet" (acknowledged, body found with Hansen's help, true identity has never been discovered)
- Roxane Easland, 24 (acknowledged, body not found)
- Ceilia "Beth" Van Zanten, 17 (denied, but suspected because of x on aviation map, body found)
- Megan Emerick, 17 (denied, but suspected because of x on aviation map, body not found)
- Mary Thill, 22 (denied, but suspected because of x on aviation map, body not found)
Of these 17 women, Hansen was only formally charged with the murders of four: Sherry Morrow, Joanna Messina, "Eklutna Annie", and Paula Goulding. He was also charged with the kidnapping and rape of Cindy Paulson.
Once arrested, Hansen was charged with assault, kidnapping, multiple weapons offenses, and theft and insurance fraud. The last charge was related to a claim filed with the insurance company over the alleged theft of some trophies; he used the proceeds 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 pleaded guilty to the four homicides the police had evidence for (Morrow, Messina, Goulding, and "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 was his participation in deciphering the markings on his aviation map and locating his victims' bodies. 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 would not report him to police. He indicated that he began killing in the early 1970s.
He showed investigators 17 grave sites, in and around Southcentral Alaska, 12 of which were unknown to investigators. There remained marks on his map that he refused to give up, including three in Resurrection Bay, near Seward (authorities suspect two of these marks belong to the graves of Mary Thill and Megan Emrick, whom Hansen has denied killing). The remains of 12 (of a probable 21) victims were exhumed by the police and returned to their families.
In 1988, he was returned to Alaska and briefly incarcerated at Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau. He was also imprisoned at Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward until May 2014, when he was transported to the Anchorage Correctional Complex for health reasons.
Hansen died on August 21, 2014, aged 75, at Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage, due to undisclosed, lingering health conditions.
In popular culture
- In The Frozen Ground (2013), John Cusack portrayed Hansen opposite Nicolas Cage as Sergeant Jack Halcombe (a character based on Glenn Flothe) and Vanessa Hudgens as victim-survivor Cindy Paulson.
- Naked Fear (2007), directed by Thom Eberhardt and starring Danielle De Luca, is loosely based on characteristics apparent in Hansen's modus operandi.
- The FBI Files episode, "Hunter's Game" (1999), depicts Hansen's murderous rampage.
- Crime Stories featured a full 2007 episode of the case.
- The Alaska: Ice Cold Killers episode "Hunting Humans" (January 25, 2012) on Investigation Discovery covered the Hansen case.
- Hidden City season 1, episode 12 ("Anchorage: Robert Hansen's Most Dangerous Game, the Legend of Blackjack Sturges, Eskimo Hu"; airdate February 21, 2012), on the Travel Channel, covered the Hansen case.
- "Mind Hunters" and "The Woods", two 2005 episodes of the CBS TV series Cold Case, were inspired by Hansen's crimes.
- In Criminal Minds, season 5, episode 21 ("Exit Wounds"; airdate May 12, 2010), Hansen is referred to by name.
- Hansen's crimes inspired Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, season 13, episode 15 ("Hunting Ground"; airdate February 22, 2012), which depicts a serial killer who hunts women like wild game before killing them.
- Shedlock, Jerzy (June 27, 2014). "'Butcher Baker' Robert Hansen moved to Anchorage for medical treatment". Alaska Dispatch.
- Klint, Chris (August 21, 2014). "Serial Killer Robert Hansen Dies in Anchorage". KTTU News. NBC. Retrieved August 21, 2014.
- DuClos, Bernard (1993). Fair Game. Svolvær, Lofoten Islands, Norway: Mondo. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-312-92905-3.
- D'Oro, Rachel (August 22, 2014). "Robert Hansen, convicted serial killer in Alaska, dies at 75". Washington Post. Retrieved January 2, 2017.
- Gilmour, Walter; Hale, Leland E. (1991). Butcher, Baker: a true account of a serial murderer. New York City: Onyx Books. pp. 93–94. ISBN 9781578332236.
- Lundberg, Murray (February 11, 2000). "Robert Hansen: A Serial Killer In Alaska". Explore North. Retrieved July 29, 2019.
- Tidemann, Michael (August 22, 2014). "Estherville-born serial killer dies". Estherville Daily News. Estherville, Iowa: Estherville Publications, Inc. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
- Hansen v. State. Justia. August 11, 1978. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
- "Slayer in Alaska was Jailed in Other Cases, Judge Notes". The New York Times. February 29, 1984. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
- DuClos, pg. 40
- Newton, Jennifer (September 4, 2014). "'We just want her to be identified': Body of Alaska serial killer victim exhumed 30 years after she was found dead". Mail Online. London, England: Daily Mail and General Trust. Retrieved December 24, 2015.
- DuClos, pg. 38
- DuClos, pg. 241
- DuClos, pg. 230
- Andrews, Laurel; Hopkins, Kyle (August 22, 2014). "Serial killer Hansen dies; "World is better without him", trooper says". Anchorage Daily News.
- Lohr, David. "Hunting Humans". crimelibrary.com. Archived from the original on July 14, 2014. Retrieved June 26, 2014.
- Selina, Leavitt (September 5, 2014). "Serial Killer's Victim Exhumed In Alaska: Who Is 'Horseshoe Harriet'?". Iquisitr. Retrieved September 6, 2014.
- Staskiewics, Keith (August 5, 2011). "Serial Killer on the Big Screen". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
- "Alaska: Ice Cold Killers episode 'Hunting Humans'". IMDb. Retrieved August 22, 2014.
- "Anchorage: Robert Hansen's Most Dangerous Game, the Legend of Blackjack Sturges, Eskimo Hu". TVGuide. February 21, 2012.
- Du Clos, Bernard. Fair Game. ISBN 978-0-312-92905-3.
- Gilmour, Walter; Hale, Leland E. Butcher, Baker: A True Account of a Serial Murder. ISBN 978-0-451-40276-9.
- Martin, Reagan (July 9, 2013). Hunted on Ice: The Search for Alaskan Serial Killer Robert Hansen. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. pp. 116 pages. ISBN 978-1490959061.
- "Serial Killer Series: Article 7: Robert Hansen". Gather.com. August 7, 2007. Archived from the original on March 14, 2012.
- Lundburg, Murry. "Robert Hansen: A Serial Killer in Alaska". ExploreNorth.
- Doogan, Sean (March 19, 2014). "Municipality has buyer for beleaguered Big Timber Motel". Alaska Dispatch.