Who was Robert Hansen?
Robert Christian Hansen was a convicted serial killer from America who abducted, raped, and murdered at least 17 women in and around Anchorage, Alaska, in the 1970s and early 1980s. A proficient hunter and tracker since childhood, Hansen chased down his victims in the Alaskan wilderness with a Ruger Mini-14 and a knife. Shy and timid as a child, he developed a distinct stutter, which, in addition to severe acne scars, had rendered him undesirable to most girls at his school. As he grew up, he began to despise them more and more. He briefly served in the United States Army Reserve before working for a police academy in Pocahontas, Iowa as an assistant drill instructor. In December 1960, he was arrested for the first time, for committing arson. In June 1983, one of his intended victims escaped and informed the police. While he was let go that time because of insufficient evidence, the bodies of several of his victims were soon discovered. He was subsequently sent to prison for 461 years.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on February 15, 1939, in Estherville, Iowa, USA, Robert Hansen was the son of Edna and Christian Hansen. A Danish immigrant, Hansen’s father was a baker, a profession that Hansen himself would adopt as his own in the later years of his life.
As an adolescent, he had a scrawny physique and was timid. He suffered from severe acne, which left scars on his face. He also spoke with a stutter. He grew up as a social outcast, as the girls in his school shunned him.
He found solace in solitude and in plotting revenge against those girls. His relationship with his domineering father was far from ideal. During this period, he developed a deep interest in hunting and archery.
In 1957, Hansen joined the US Army Reserve. After serving for a year, he left the military and was later employed at a police academy in Pocahontas, Iowa as an assistant drill instructor.
He met a younger woman, whom he married in the summer of 1960. That year, in December, he was apprehended by the police for the first time, after he set fire to a Pocahontas County Board of Education school bus garage. He was subsequently sentenced to 20 months in prison.
While he was in jail, his wife divorced him. In the ensuing few years, he was incarcerated multiple times for petty thefts.
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Second Marriage & Relocation to Anchorage, Alaska
Sometime in the mid-1960s, Robert Hansen got married for the second time. He and his wife relocated to Anchorage, Alaska in 1967. They had two children together and were respected members of the community. Hansen even notched up a few local hunting records.
His troubles with the law continued in Anchorage as well. In 1972, he was sentenced to six months in prison for assault, and in 1976, given a five-year sentence after a failed attempt at stealing a chainsaw from a department store.
He was also ordered to seek psychiatric treatment for his bipolar disorder. The Alaskan Supreme Court eventually ordered the sentence to be lessened to the time he had already spent in jail during the trial.
Murders & the Escape of Cindy Paulson
Robert Hansen would later admit that he had been abducting, raping, and killing women since 1971. He was arrested in 1983, and in those 12 years, more than 30 women were raped and sexually assaulted by him, and minimum 17 were killed.
On June 13, 1983, a 17-year-old intended victim named Cindy Paulson managed to run away from Hansen. Unlike most of the women killed by him, Paulson was a sex worker. She was lured in with a promise of $200 for oral sex. However, when she got into his car, he threatened her with a gun. He kept her as a captive, repeatedly torturing, sexually assaulting, and raping her.
The authorities eventually found her after her escape, and Hansen was subsequently arrested. He rejected the allegations, claiming that Paulson was trying to frame him as he had previously refused to pay her more money. Despite the arrests, Hansen had built up a decent reputation in the community, which, in addition to his timidness, unassuming occupation as a baker, and a strong alibi, helped him convince the police to let him go.
Arrest & Conviction
The authorities never learned the identity of the woman whose body was first discovered among Hansen’s victims. They named her "Eklutna Annie", after the road near which her remains were found.
After several more bodies were discovered in and around Anchorage, Seward and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley area, and the police realised that Hansen fit the criminal psychological profile drawn out for the case, he was apprehended once more in October 1983.
Hansen owned a plane and the police discovered an aviation map with small ‘x’ marks on it during their search. After initially rejecting the evidence, Hansen started to claim that the women were responsible for their own fate.
He was convicted for murdering four women: Sherry Morrow, Joanna Messina, Eklutna Annie, and Paula Goulding, as well as for kidnapping and raping Paulson. Besides the 461-year prison sentence, he was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
In August 2014, Hansen passed away, at the age of 75.