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Robert Hansen: The Butcher Baker Who Hunted Women in Alaska

Robert Hansen was considered a meek and upstanding citizen. The authorities had no idea he was an active serial killer
Robert Hansen was considered a meek and upstanding citizen. The authorities had no idea he was an active serial killer
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American serial killer Robert Hansen also referred to as the Butcher Baker in the mainstream media was born on February 15, 1939, and died on August 21, 2014. At least seventeen women in and around Anchorage, Alaska, were kidnapped, raped, and murdered by Hansen between 1971 and 1983; he pursued many of them in the wild with a Ruger Mini-14 and a knife.

He was detained, found guilty, and given a 461-year prison term with no chance of release in 1983. He was 75 years old when he died naturally in 2014 due to chronic health issues.

Early Years of Robert Hansen

The older of two children, Robert Christian Boes Hansen, was born on February 15, 1939, in Estherville, Iowa, at Coleman Hospital. His parents were of American and Danish descent. In 1942, the family relocated to Richmond, California, but they later returned to Iowa and settled in Pocahontas in 1949.

Edna Margret Petersen was his mom. Robert worked at the municipal bakery operated by Robert’s father, Christian Hansen (1907–1983). He stuttered, suffered from severe acne that left him permanently scarred and was excruciatingly shy as a child.

Hansen grew up despising the attractive girls at school because he didn’t get their desired attention and harbored dreams of heinous retaliation.

Robert Hansen, also known as the Butcher Baker, in a file photo

Robert Hansen, also known as the Butcher Baker, in a file photo

Hansen was described as quiet and a loner throughout his childhood and adolescence, and he struggled to get along with his controlling father. He began to pursue archery and hunting and frequently sought solace in these activities.

Hansen joined the US Army Reserve in 1957 and served for a year before being released. Later, he was employed as a drill instructor’s assistant at a police academy in Pocahontas, Iowa. In that location, he started dating a younger woman. In the summer of 1960, he wed her.

First Offenses of Robert Hansen

In retaliation for his lack of popularity in high school, Hansen set a Pocahontas County Board of Education school bus garage on fire. He was jailed on December 7, 1960, for the offense. In Anamosa State Penitentiary, he completed the first twenty months of a three-year prison sentence.

He was identified as having manic depression with intermittent schizophrenia episodes while incarcerated. The psychiatrist who diagnosed Hansen said he had an “infantile personality” and was fixated on getting even with those who, in his opinion, had harmed him.

While Hansen was behind bars, his wife filed for divorce.

Hansen spent several months in jail for small-time stealing during the following few years. He and his second wife, whom he had married in 1963 and with whom he had two children, relocated to Anchorage, Alaska, in 1967.

Robert Hansen with a trophy and weapon

Robert Hansen with a trophy and weapon

He established several local hunting records in Anchorage and was well-liked by his neighbors.

Hansen was detained twice in December 1971: once for kidnapping and attempting to rape an unnamed housewife and another time for raping an unnamed sex worker.

In the incident with the housewife, he entered a plea of not guilty to assault with a deadly weapon; as part of a plea agreement, the rape accusation against the sex worker was dropped. After spending the first six months of his five-year jail term, Hansen was put on a work release program and transferred to a halfway house.

Hansen received a five-year sentence. When Hansen was caught stealing a chainsaw from an Anchorage Fred Meyer store in 1976, he entered a guilty plea to larceny. He was given a five-year prison term and ordered to get bipolar disorder therapy in the meanwhile.

He was released with credit for time served when the Alaska Supreme Court lowered his sentence.

The Murders of the Butcher Baker

Hansen is thought to have started murdering in 1972. His method of operation involved picking up a prostitute in his automobile and driving her under the influence of alcohol or drugs to his house, where he would rape her.

He would then fly the victim to a remote location where he would “hunt” the victim like a wild animal before shooting or stabbing her.

Some people think that Celia “Beth” van Zanten, who was 18 years old, was Hansen’s first murder victim. Van Zanten was taken hostage on December 22, 1971, and after fleeing her captor, she died of exposure in the forest.

Her body was found on December 25. Three days after Hansen beat up a prostitute and four days before she handed him in, Van Zanten was kidnapped. Although there are some similarities between Hansen’s tactics and Van Zanten’s kidnapping, there is no concrete proof that he was her assailant.

He has also denied being involved in her killing.

On June 13, 1983, Hansen offered Cindy Paulson, then 17 years old, $200 to engage in oral sex; when she accepted, he pulled out a revolver and took her to his Muldoon house. He took her hostage there and started raping and torturing her.

She later admitted to authorities that Hansen slept off on a couch near where he had chained her by the neck to a post in the home’s basement. He put her in his car when he awakened, drove her to Merrill Field Airport, and informed her that he was going to “take her out to his cabin” when he got there (a shack in the Knik River area of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley accessible only by boat or bush plane).

When Hansen was busy preparing the cockpit of his aircraft, a Piper PA-18 Super Cub, Paulson, who was squatting in the back seat of the car with her wrists bound in front of her body, sensed an opportunity to flee.

The known victims of Robert Hansen

The known victims of Robert Hansen

Paulson opened the driver’s side door, climbed out of the back seat with Hansen’s back turned, and sprinted toward Sixth Avenue.

Paulson later admitted to police that she had placed her blue sneakers as proof of her presence in the vehicle on the backseat’s passenger side floor. Paulson could reach Sixth Avenue before Hansen and flagged down a passing truck.

Paulson’s messy look concerned the driver, Robert Yount, who pulled over and scooped her up. She leaped out of the truck and hurried inside the Mush Inn after he had driven her there.

Yount continued to his worksite but only after contacting the police to report the barefoot, shackled girl.

Officers from the Anchorage Police Department (APD) were informed when they arrived at the Mush Inn that Paulson had taken a taxi to the Big Timber Motel. When APD police arrived at Room 110 of the Big Timber Motel, they discovered Paulson there alone and still in handcuffs.

She described the attacker while being brought to the APD headquarters. When questioned by APD officers about the allegations, Hansen refuted them, saying that Paulson was only trying to get in his face since he had refused to comply with her extortion demands.

Even though Hansen had a history of legal troubles, his humble work as a baker and an alibi provided by his buddy John Henning prevented him from being treated seriously as a suspect.

A team of detectives from the Alaska State Troopers, including Detective Glenn Flothe, had been looking into the finding of multiple bodies in and around Anchorage, Seward, and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley region.

Construction workers near Eklutna Road discovered the first body. Investigators have never been able to identify the body, which they have called “Eklutna Annie.” Later that same year, Joanna Messina’s body was found in a gravel pit not far from Seward, and in 1982, the remains of Sherry Morrow, a 23-year-old woman, were found in a shallow burial not far from the Knik River.

Flothe thought the same person was responsible for the murders of all three women.

The initial suspect sketch of Robert Hansen

The initial suspect sketch of Robert Hansen

Flothe contacted FBI Special Agent John Douglas to ask for assistance in creating an offender profile based on the three deaths that were found. Douglas predicted that the murderer would be a skilled hunter with low self-esteem, a history of being rejected by women, and a strong desire to preserve “memorabilia” from his crimes, such as the jewelry of his victims.

He also implied that the attacker might stumble. Flothe used this profile to look into potential suspects before coming across Hansen, who suited the description and owned a plane.

Paulson’s testimony and Douglas’s background information helped Flothe and the APD obtain a warrant to search Hansen’s home, vehicles, and airplanes. On October 27, 1983, authorities found a stash of weapons and jewels in Hansen’s attic belonging to a few missing women.

Hidden under Hansen’s headboard was an aeronautical chart with 37 little “x” marks on it. Many of these markers corresponded to locations where bodies had already been discovered (others were later found at the sites indicated on Hansen’s murder map).

When faced with the evidence discovered in his home, Hansen initially denied it, but he ultimately started to place responsibility on the women and make excuses for his behavior. He eventually acknowledged a spate of assaults against Alaskan women beginning in 1971, confessing to each piece of evidence as it was given to him.

The Victims of Robert Hansen

In contrast to the victims who helped him make his findings, Hansen’s initial victims were young girls or women, mainly between the ages of 16 and 19, who were not prostitutes.

Celia “Beth” van Zanten

On December 22, 1971, Celia “Beth” van Zanten, then 18 years old, was at home with two of her three older brothers. The three of them resided in a home with their older brother David and cousin Greg Nicholas on Knik Avenue in south Anchorage, close to Northern Lights Boulevard. In Anchorage, her parents lived in a different house.

In the late evening, Beth walked a few blocks from her residence to the adjacent Bi-LO supermarket. She left the Bi-LO at 8:30 before it closed at 9:00. A witness saw Beth enter the Bi-LO between 8:45 and 9:00 p.m.

A neighbor reported seeing her on Northern Lights Boulevard at 9:00 pm. She failed to get to the Bi-LO. Two days after she vanished, it was reported. Her body was found at McHugh Creek State Park, close to Anchorage, on December 25, 1971.

She had been chained, sexually assaulted, and had her chest slashed with a knife. She had been thrown alive into a narrow valley, where she had perished from exposure. According to the forensic evidence, her attempts to climb back up the slope were unsuccessful because of her restraints.

Because of an “x” on his aircraft chart, Hansen has been accused of killing her; however, he has denied being responsible for her death and the murders of other women who were not working in the sex industry.

Megan Siobhan Emerick

On July 7, 1973, Megan Siobhan Emerick, who was 17 at the time, disappeared in Seward, Alaska. She was enrolled at the boarding school Seward Skill Centre when she was last seen leaving a dorm laundry area. Since then, no one has seen or heard from her.

All of Megan’s belongings, including her identification, were left behind. Her roommate searched for her for three days before calling the police. To the authorities, Hansen claimed not to have killed her, although he did acknowledge being in Seward on the day Megan vanished.

Robert Hansen's map where he buried the victims

Robert Hansen’s map where he buried the victims

He is suspected because of an “x” on his aircraft map in the Seward region. According to a former prisoner, Hansen allegedly acknowledged taking Megan to a cabin in the Seward region that could only be reached by boat, where he killed and buried her.

Mary Kathleen Thill

Mary Kathleen Thill, age 22, went missing from Seward, Alaska, on July 5, 1975. She lived on Lower Point Road while her husband was gone working on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

A buddy who had driven her into town picked her up at a neighborhood bakery. A different acquaintance saw her between 1:30 and 2:00 pm by a waterfall on Lowell Point Road. Since then, no one has seen or heard from her.

Hansen admitted being in Seward the day Thill vanished but refuted accusations that he killed her. His aviation chart showed an “x” near Resurrection Bay, which raised questions about him. According to a former prisoner, Hansen acknowledged killing her and dumping her body in Resurrection Bay.

Eklutna Annie

On July 21, 1980, a power line’s nearby grave held the remains of Eklutna Annie. After she attempted to escape from his car, Hansen acknowledged that he had stabbed her in the back. Hansen stated that she was his first murder victim and that she was either a topless dancer or a prostitute.

Troopers believe Eklutna Annie might have traveled to Alaska via California despite his assertion that she might have come from Kodiak. When her body was discovered in a small hole not far from Eklutna Lake Road, it had already been substantially devoured by wildlife.

Joanna Messina

On May 19, 1980, when Joanne Messina, a local topless dancer, was 24 years old and working in Seward, she went out to supper with Hansen. Hansen said things were going great until she offered him sex in exchange for money.

Hansen brought her and her dog to a remote location along the Snow River because he would not accept payment or release her. Before shooting her twice and the dog once, he struck her with a.22 revolver.

The police digging up the remains of one of Robert Hansen's victims

The police digging up the remains of one of Robert Hansen’s victims

He took Messina’s body to a neighboring gravel mine and scattered gravel over it. The dog, Messina’s possessions, and the gun were all hurled into the woods and the Snow River, respectively. After being eaten by wildlife, her rapidly decomposing body was discovered on July 8, 1980.

Roxane Easland

Roxane Easland, who was 24 years old at the time, disappeared on June 28. She and her partner had spent the past two weeks residing at the Budget Motel on Spenard Road in Anchorage, Alaska. She had an appointment with an unknown man downtown on Fourth Avenue that day.

Since then, no one has seen or heard from her. Despite the fact that Hansen acknowledged killing her, her body was never found.

Lisa Futrell

May 9, 1984, through September 6, 1980, Lisa Futrell met Hansen at the Anchorage nightclub where she worked, and Hansen later abducted Lisa. The 41-year-old’s younger roommates called the police when she didn’t come home after her shift at the club on September 7, 1980.

South of the former Knik bridge, near a gravel pit, her body was recovered on May 9, 1984.

Toby Morrow

On November 17, 1981, Sherry Morrow, a 23-year-old topless dancer who would be paid $300 for nude photographs, informed her friends that she was seeing a photographer. She vanished without a trace. On September 12, 1982, hunters found a little graveyard close to Anchorage on the banks of the Knik River.

Morrow’s remains, which had been reported missing a year earlier, were recognized. She had suffered three bullet wounds to the back, and cartridges found nearby identified the weapon that had been used to fire the shots as a.223 Ruger Mini-14 hunting rifle.

The body was discovered fully clothed, but an unexpected detail suggested that Sherry had been naked when she was shot and had been dressed again after death before burial.

Andre Mona “Fish” Altiery,

Andre “Fish” Altiery, 24, was last seen getting into a taxi to travel to the Boniface Mall in Anchorage, Alaska, around 11:00 p.m. on December 2, 1981. She had planned a photo session with an unidentified man and unusual dance performances.

Since then, no one has seen or heard from her. Several of Altiery’s belongings, including her fish necklace, were found when officials searched Hansen’s home. Hansen stated that after they first met, he threatened her with a gun, kidnapped her, and put handcuffs and a blindfold on her.

Robert Hansen's House in Alaska

Robert Hansen’s House in Alaska

They took a car to a service lane off Palmer Highway close to the Knik River Bridge. There, while she was unbound, he sexually assaulted her. She reacted, and he shot her dead with a.22 Browning automatic pistol.

Then, after taking Altiery’s necklace, he tied the dead woman to a duffel bag, loaded it with stones, and hurled her off the bridge into the Knik River. Her remains were never located.

Sue Luna

A nightclub customer offered Sue Luna, a 23-year-old topless dancer, $300 in exchange for her cooperation in a photo shoot. She met Hansen on May 26, 1982, in a diner parking lot. Luna was reported missing the next day.

Hansen had kidnapped, slain, and interred Luna in the Knik River. She was found on April 24, 1984. Hansen stripped her and made her run into the wilderness, hunting her like an animal. She had been shot to death.

Raphael Pelkey

On April 25, 1984, Robin Pelkey’s partial skeleton remains, who was 19 at the time, was discovered in Palmer, Alaska, not far from Horseshoe Lake. She had been shot and stabbed, it was discovered. She may or may not have engaged in sexual activity; Hansen preferred ladies who were in their late teens.

Skeletal remains of Robin Pelkey, who was known as horseshoe harriet

Skeletal remains of Robin Pelkey, who was known as Horseshoe Harriet

Forensic genealogy was employed in October 2021 to identify her. Before her identity was revealed, she went by the name “Horseshoe Harriet.” Pelkey lived in Anchorage, Alaska, in the early 1980s, and on July 19, 1983, she disappeared.

DeLynne “Sugar” Frey

Despite being last seen in March 1983, DeLynne Renee Frey, a 22-year-old former Alaskan resident, was not immediately reported missing. Hansen kidnapped her and then killed her. On August 20, 1985, a pilot testing new tires found her dead on a sandbar in the Knik River. She was buried as “Jane Doe” in an Anchorage cemetery. She wasn’t recognized until 1989 when an Alaska State Trooper recognized her jewelry in a case file picture.

Paula Goulding

When Hansen promised Paula Goulding, 30, money before abducting her on April 25, 1983, she was a dancer in Anchorage. He drove her to his plane, bound her up, and ordered her out under the threat of being shot.

According to Hansen, when they got to an isolated area, she started fighting with him and tried to get away. He chased her down with a .233 rifle, killing her in the process. She was found on the Knik River on September 2, 1983, and buried in a shallow grave.

Robert Hansen's basement where he tortured the girls

Robert Hansen’s basement where he tortured the girls

Although she had sustained a back injury, her clothing was undamaged, suggesting that she may have been shot while still unclothed before being dressed and buried.

Cindy Paulson

On June 13, 1983, Cindy Paulson, 19, and Hansen first met. After she agreed to pay for sex, Hansen instead abducted her. Before Hansen transported her to Merrill Field, where his plane was, she was taken to his house, bound, and subjected to sexual abuse.

Hansen threatened to kill Paulson if she escaped from his car while he started loading his plane. She took off and headed for Fifth Avenue. Robert Yount, a passing motorist, stopped to pick her up there. Yount drove Paulson to a secure area before making a police call.

At around the same time, a Merrill Field security officer spotted some unusual activity and, though he didn’t approach anyone, noted Hansen’s car’s license plate. Paulson was located by police, who questioned him about the assault.

Lisa Larsen

Dancer Larsen, age 28, was reported missing on July 10, 1981. Her body was found on April 24, 1984, in a parking lot next to the historic Knik River Bridge.

Kathleen Watson

Watson, a dancer, was last seen in Anchorage on March 25, 1983. She was 22 years old. She told her roommate she would see a guy giving her $300 for an hour or two of company. Hansen kidnapped her and killed her at Scenic Lake.

Since the ground there was still frozen, Hansen could not bury her. He left her where she had fallen. Her remains were discovered on May 17, 1984.

Angela Lynn Feddern

Angela Lynn Feddern, 24, was last seen in Anchorage on Fourth Avenue in February 1983. She went missing in May, not earlier. A nightclub owner reported that one of his dancers, Feddern, had vanished.

She had been abducted and killed by Hansen. On April 26, 1984, Feddern’s body was discovered on a tiny lake close to Figure Eight Lake.

Tamera Pederson

29 April 1984, 20-year-old Tami Pederson worked as a dancer in an Anchorage nightclub. She claimed to have been offered money to pose for pictures during a phone contact with her family on August 7, 1982, which was the last time they spoke to her.

Robert Hansen being bought to the court to answer for his crimes

Robert Hansen being bought to the court to answer for his crimes

Hansen abducted her and killed her. Her body wasn’t discovered until Hansen confessed and showed where it was on a map. On April 29, 1984, she was discovered 1.5 kilometers from the Old Knik Bridge.

Hansen had been charged with the murder of only four of these eighteen women—Sherry Morrow, Joanna Messina, “Eklutna Annie,” and Paula Goulding. He was also accused of raping and kidnapping Cindy Paulson.

Imprisonment

After being apprehended, Hansen was accused of using several firearms improperly, kidnapping, violence, theft, and insurance fraud. The final allegation was connected to an insurance claim over the alleged theft of specific trophies; he used the money to buy his plane.

He said at trial that he later found the trophies in his backyard but forgot to let the insurer know.

After ballistics testing revealed a match between the bullets collected at the crime scenes and Hansen’s gun, he entered a plea agreement.

He supplied information about his other victims in exchange for serving his sentence in federal prison with minimal press coverage and pleading guilty to the four murders for which the police had proof (Morrow, Messina, Goulding, and “Eklutna Annie”).

His assistance in interpreting the markings on his aviation map and locating the remains of his victims was another requirement of the plea agreement. Hansen added that he would occasionally release a potential victim if she persuaded him that she would not denounce him to the police, confirming the police premise of how the women were taken.

He said he started killing at the start of the 1970s.

(Left) Robert Hansen in real life (right) the movie (The Frozen Ground, 2013), counterpart played by Cussock

(Left) Robert Hansen in real life (right) the movie (The Frozen Ground, 2013), counterpart played by Cussock

In and around Southcentral Alaska, Hansen showed the investigators 17 cemetery sites, 12 of which the investigators were unaware of. He was still holding onto the marks on his chart, three of which were in Resurrection Bay, close to Seward (authorities suspect two of these marks belong to the graves of Mary Thill and Megan Emrick, whom Hansen has denied killing).

Police exhumed the bones of 12 (of a likely 21) victims and gave them back to their families.

Hansen received a 461-year prison term with no chance of parole. In Lewisburg, Pennsylvania’s United States Penitentiary, he was initially detained. He was sent back to Alaska in 1988 and spent a short time behind bars at Juneau’s Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

Additionally, he was detained at the Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward up until May 2014, when, for medical reasons, he was sent to the Anchorage Correctional Complex.

Robert Hansen died on August 21, 2014, at age 75, from natural causes brought on by underlying medical issues at Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage. The 2013 movie, The Frozen Ground, is based on the story of Robert Hansen and his victims.

RIP Victims of Robert Hansen

Next, read about the Christmas Legends That Would Send a Shiver Up Your Spine! And also, about the Headhunters Guarding a Valley Full of Gold in the USA!

 

 

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Written By

Abin Tom Sebastian, also known as Mr. Morbid in the community, is an avid fan of the paranormal and the dark history of the world. He believes that sharing these stories and histories are essential for the future generations. For god forbid, we have seen that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Saara Torrison

    December 26, 2022 at 6:09 pm

    Wow, it seems like the justice system failed his first victims. If he was properly assessed as a threat and repeat offender, maybe those girls and women could’ve lived. What a horrible story but also thank you for covering it so thoroughly, Mr. Morbid!

    • Mr Morbid

      December 27, 2022 at 2:54 am

      Anytime. I’m glad that you enjoyed reading this. Yes, indeed, the justice department failed many of those poor girls. May they Rest in Peace.

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