Mug shot of Robert Hansen
|Birth name:||Robert Christian Hansen|
|Born:||February 15, 1939
|Number of victims:||17–21|
|Span of killings:||1980–1983|
|Date apprehended:||June 13, 1983|
Hansen was born in Estherville, Iowa to Christian and Edna Hansen. Throughout childhood and adolescence, Hansen was described as being quiet and a loner, and had a dysfunctional relationship with his domineering father. He was frequently bullied at school for his perpetual acne and his severe stammer. 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. In Pocahontas, Hansen began a relationship with a late adolescent girl and married in the summer of 1960.
On December 7 of that year, he was arrested for burning down a local school bus garage, for which he served 20 months of a three-year prison sentence. His wife filed for divorce against him 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. In Anchorage, he was well liked by his neighbors and was famed as a local hunting champion. He even broke several records, documented in the Pope & Young's book of world hunting records. However, these records were vacated after Hansen's conviction.
In 1977, he was imprisoned for theft of a chainsaw, diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed lithium to control his mood swings. He was never officially ordered to take the medication, however, and was released from prison after serving a year. By then the father of two children, Hansen opened a bakery after his release.
He began killing prostitutes around 1980. After paying for their services, he would kidnap and rape them; he would then fly them out to his cabin in the Knik River Valley in his private airplane. He would then release his victim to stalk and kill her with either a hunting knife or a .223 caliber Ruger Mini-14 rifle.
On June 13, 1983, prostitute Cindy Paulson went to the police and identified Hansen as the man who had raped and kidnapped her. Hansen denied the accusations and was not initially considered a serious suspect. Detective Glenn Flothe of the Alaska State Troopers police contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and requested help after a body was found, and Roy Hazelwood was brought in to assist the investigation. Hazelwood theorized that 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 or even body parts. John E. Douglas in his book Mind Hunters states that his unit was called in to assist.
Flothe and the police secured a warrant and searched Hansen's house on October 27, 1983, uncovering jewelry belonging to the victims, newspaper clippings about the murders and an array of firearms — including a .223-caliber Mini-14 rifle.
Hansen was arrested and charged with assault, kidnapping, weapons offenses, theft and insurance fraud. When ballistics tests returned a match between bullets found at the crime scenes to Hansen's rifle, he entered into a plea bargain in which he pleaded guilty to the four homicides the police knew about and provided details about his other victims in return for serving his sentence in a federal prison along with no publicity in the press. He then showed investigators 17 gravesites in the Knik River Valley, 12 of which police were unaware. Eleven remains of a probable 21 victims were exhumed by the police and returned to their families. Hansen was then sentenced to 461 years in prison.
Hansen was first imprisoned at a maximum security prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. In 1988, he was returned to Alaska and was briefly incarcerated at Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau. He is currently imprisoned at Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward.