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April 02, 2022
In April 1984, the remains of a young woman were discovered on the ground near Horseshoe Lake in Anchorage, Alaska. The body was discovered by Alaska State Troopers searching for the remains of serial killer Robert “The Butcher Baker” Hansen's victims. The unidentified female, referred to as Horseshoe Doe, lay unidentified for four decades, until her body was recently exhumed for DNA testing. The decedent was identified this week as a 19-year-old homeless teenager named Robin Pelkey who had been living in Anchorage Alaska when she was abducted and murdered by her killer.
Robert Hansen, who was 44 years old at the time of his arrest, confessed to Alaska State Troopers over the course of a week in the spring of 1984 to the rape of dozens of women over the span of several years, along with the murder of at least four- although there is believed to be many more. Since Alaska did not have the death penalty, Hansen was sentenced to 461 years in prison and a life sentence for his crimes. The bodies of his known victims were dug up by bears as the snow thawed from the ground and stumbled upon by hikers in the area.
Robert Hansen's career in crime started in his early twenties when he burned down a Board of education school bus, a crime he was motivated to commit as revenge against the high school he attended where felt he wasn't as popular or as well-liked as his fellow students and received little attention from the pretty, popular girls. Robert Hansen grew up in Pocahontas, a small community in Northwest Iowa. As a child and teenager, he was described as painfully shy, socially awkward loner with a domineering father.
He was incarcerated for over a year and a half and while behind bars was psychiatrically evaluated and determined to have bipolar disorder as well as intermittent schizophrenic episodes. Following his released from prison, the nature of Robert Hansen’s crimes became increasingly extreme as the years went by and he turned his attention towards women.
Hansen and his then wife relocated to Anchorage, Alaska in 1967 after four years of being married. They had two children together. It is in Anchorage that Hansen began kidnapping, torturing, raping, and killing women. He kidnapped a stay-at-home spouse and attempted to rape her, a crime which he was arrested for and ended up pleading no contest to for assault with a deadly weapon. He was then charged for raping another woman, a sex worker, however, the charges were dropped as part of a plea deal. Although Robert Hansen was sentenced to five years in prison for his crimes, he served only a total of six months, before being released into a work program where he was made to return to prison when his shift was up. Hansen was then released into the hands of an institute for those with drug issues and criminal history. He had been killing women for several years at this point, although he had not been caught. It is believed he had started murdering women as early as 1971.
From 1971 – 1983 Robert Hansen lured and abducted dozens of women, most of whom were sex workers or dancers, and forced them into his car. The killer later admitted that his earliest victims were young girls and teenagers. He would drive them to his home where he would torture and rape them, before driving them to Merrill Field airport, a public use airport around a mile from Anchorage. He would then fly his bound victims to a cabin in Knik River, Matanuska Valley in his personal plane and release them into the wilderness so he could hunt them, usually with a semi-automatic rifle and a knife. As a child Hansen found solace in the pastimes of archery and hunting and was at one point a United States Army Reserve.
Robert Hansen's modus operandi was revealed to officers in June 1983 when Cindy Paulson, 17, escaped her abductor and explained to police that Hansen had kidnapped her after he lured her into his car with the offer of $200 for oral sex. She said he then held a gun to her, cuffed her and drove her to his family home where she suffered torture and rape. She was then bundled into his car and driven to the airport where she made a daring escape while Hansen was busy preparing his plane. The teenager deliberately left her shoes behind as evidence in the hope that it would help convict Hansen later. She described how he chased after her as she fled, still handcuffed. The victim flagged down a passing vehicle and was dropped off at a hotel where she called for help.
A fishing buddy of Hansen's named John Henning provided him with a false alibi that allowed the killer to remain free and continue kidnapping, raping, and killing women. Hansen made a phone call to Henning after Cindy Paulson escaped and concocted a story about taking a prostitute to his house while his wife and kids were out of town and being blackmailed by her to pay more or be accused of rape. After Hansen was charged, Henning told the press: "I know I did wrong. At the time it didn't seem like it was that wrong, the way it was presented to me. I supposed, knowing his wife and kids, he just went the straight line, straight as an arrow."
"Mr. Hansen is publicity shy, so rather than go through with that he gradually admitted the killings until the list stood at 17. Apparently, he has less of a problem killing the women than talking about it later," said an investigator on the case at the time of Hansen’s arrest.
Hansen was discovered to be responsible for the murder of at least seventeen females and was sentenced for the death of four.
At Hansen's sentencing, Frank Rothschild, an assistant district attorney, said of Hansen: "Before you sits a monster, an extreme aberration of a human being who has walked among us. Not even his wife of 20 years had any inkling of his dark, evil side. His crimes numb the mind."
Robert Hansen spent the remainder of his life in prison and died in 2014 at the age of seventy-five.
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