compiled by Patrick H. Moore

It’s no secret that serial killers often masquerade as everyday good citizens. To some degree, Alaska’s most prolific serial killer, ‘Butcher Baker’ Robert Hansen, did precisely that. Hansen, who confessed to murdering 17 women and raping 30, mostly in the Alaskan wilderness, died recently at Alaska Regional Hospital after being in declining health for the past year. During his life as a free man, prior to his conviction in 1984, the Butcher Baker ran a bakery in Anchorage, Alaska and lived across town with his wife and children who had no idea that Dad was a deranged rapist/serial killer.

bak10Serial killers naturally vary considerably in their techniques and BB added an unusual and particular cruel wrinkle to his murder technique. Some of you who are ancient like me may have read a short story by Richard Connell first published in 1924 in Collier’s called “The Most Dangerous Game”. It’s the scintillating tale of a New York big-game hunter Rainsford who falls off a yacht and swims to an obscure island in the Caribbean where he is hunted in the jungle by a jaded Cossack aristocrat. Naturally, since it’s an adventure tale, Rainsford ultimately turns the tables on the Cossack, feeds him to his own dogs, and sleeps comfortably in his bed.

The Butcher Baker may have read Connell’s gripping tale; if not, he came up with a similar scenario on his own. His victims of choice were strippers and prostitutes who were plentiful in Boomstate Alaska during the 1970s and 1980s.

Rachel D’Oro writes:

Construction of the 800-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline in the 1970s brought prostitutes, pimps, con artists and drug dealers to Alaska’s largest city, all aiming to separate construction workers from some of the big money they were pulling in. Many who looked for quick riches left as abruptly as they arrived in Anchorage, making sudden disappearances commonplace.

bak6According to retired trooper Glenn Flothe, who helped put Hansen behind bars, Hansen initially targeted any woman who caught his eye, but soon learned that due to their transient lifestyle, strippers and prostitutes were harder to track and less likely to be missed.

After selecting a victim, Hansen would abduct them and take them to remote places outside Anchorage. He was clever and would vary his modus operandi. Sometimes he would drive his victims to their doom, and other times he would fly them out into the middle of nowhere in his private plane. Sometimes being a licensed pilot comes in handy. Furthermore, he wouldn’t always kill the women he raped but would sometimes return them to Anchorage, warning them not to contact the authorities. “The Most Dangerous Game” connections stems from the fact that on other occasions, he would transport the women out into the wilderness, set them free, and then hunt them down with his rifle.

The Butcher Baker’s reign of terror began to show chinks in 1983 when he met 17-year-old Cindy Paulson. Hansen had offered Cindy $200 for oral sex, but when she got into the car, he pulled a gun on her and drove her to his house where he tortured and raped her. His exertions apparently wore him out; he chained her by the neck to a post in the basement and took a nap

bak11When he woke up, he put her in his car and drove her to the Merrill Field airport where he kept his Piper Super Cub. He told her his plan was to “take her out to his cabin” in the Knik River area of the Matanuska Valley, which was accessible only by boat or bush plane). While Hansen was busy loading the cockpit, Paulson made a run for it and escaped. Had she not gotten away, it’s very likely she would have been one of Hansen’s hunting victims.

She reported her nightmare to the police who questioned Hansen who of course denied the accusations and claimed Paulson was just mad because he wouldn’t kowtow to her extortion demands.

Amazingly, although Hansen had had several prior run-ins with the law, his meek demeanour and humble occupation as a baker, combined with a strong alibi from his friend John Henning, kept him from being considered as a serious suspect, and the case went cold.

bak8Dead bodies had begun turning up, however, with some evidence they had been killed by a hunter. Detective Frothe consulted with FBI agent Roy Hazelwood, and a criminal psychological profile was developed. Hazelwood believed that the killer would be an experienced hunter with low self-esteem, and would therefore, as is often the case, feel compelled to keep “souvenirs” of the murders, such as jewelry. With the help of the profile, Flothe investigated possible suspects and ultimately came to Hansen, who fit the profile and owned a plane. The remains of 23-year-old Sherry Morrow had been discovered in a shallow grave near the Knik River, which of course was accessible only by plane.

The screws were tightening and Flothe and the APD obtained a warrant to search Hansen’s plane, cars, and home. On 27 October, 1983, the investigators struck gold. They found jewelry associated with some of the missing women hidden in the corner of Hansen’s attic and an aviation map with little x marks on it secreted behind Hansen’s headboard.

bak5After that, it was only a matter of time, and Hansen finally confessed to more than a decade of attacks beginning as early as 1971. His earliest victims were teenagers, not the prostitutes and strippers who led to his discovery.

Hansen was serving a 461-year sentence at the time of his death which means he would have had to live to be as old as Methuselah to complete his sentence. Still, 30 years is a pretty decent stretch.

bak9The Associated Press attempted to interview Hansen 22 years after his conviction in 2006, but he rejected their request, writing in a unsigned note.

“I do not care so much for myself, but you journalist (sic) have hurt my family so very much.”

Hansen was the subject of a 2013 film titled, “The Frozen Ground,” which starred Nicolas Cage as an Alaska State Trooper investigating the slayings. John Cusack played Hansen.

* * * * *

bak4Hansen’s childhood provides at least some insight into the origins of his bloodthirsty ways. Although he was eventually to marry twice and have two children, he was a loner as a child and had a terrible relationship with his domineering father. To make matters worse, he stuttered and had bad acne, which led to bullying at school. Hunting was his escape and he served a year in the United States Army Reserve, and later worked as an assistant drill instructor at a police academy in Pocahontas, Iowa.

When he was 21, he was arrested for burning down a Pocahontas County Board of Education school bus garage, which led to him serving 20 months of a three-year prison sentence. His first wife, whom he had married shortly before burning down the garage, filed for divorce while he was incarcerated. After he got out, he was jailed several more times for petty theft. Thinking a change would do him good, in 1967, Hansen moved to Anchorage, Alaska, with his second wife, whom he had married shortly after his release from state prison.

bak3The amazing thing is the fact that in Anchorage, Hanson was well liked by his neighbors. His great prowess was as hunter and he set several local hunting records, quite a feat in big-game Alaska.

Ten years after moving to the north country, he went to jail for stealing a chainsaw. Later, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and prescribed lithium which he may or may not have taken.

Without peeling back very many layers of the Serial Killer Onion, we see that the Butcher Baker had at least four qualities often associated with serial killers, and if we knew more about his childhood, we might discover more. He was 1) a loner; 2) had a dysfunctional relationship with his father; 3) loved killing animals (his specialty); and liked setting things on fire.

He was rather a late-bloomer, however, and apparently didn’t murder his first victim until 1971 when he was 32 years old.

 

One Response to The ‘Butcher Baker’ Is Dead at Last: Alaska’s Most Prolific Serial Killer Robert Hansen Dies after 30 Years in Prison

  1. I’ve heard of this case before, but never knew the details. Thanks for posting! I was in Anchorage in 1984 and stayed with a judge. Do you know the name of the judge who handled his case?

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