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Robert Hansen - The Butcher Baker

Larry is a true crime fan and has several years of experience reporting on true crime cases and hosts a true-crime podcast.

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Setting The Scene

This story begins on the Knik River, which is about 40 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska. Alaska is a rather large place, with not as many people. There is a lot of land out there, lot of people live there for the wildlife. Hunting and fishing is extremely popular. The date is September 12, 1982, and John Daly is an officer with the Anchorage Police Department, who decided that he and a friend would enjoy their day off in Anchorage, by going moose hunting on the Knik River. This was a very popular hunting spot.

This is literally why John lives in Alaska, so he can do things like this on his day off. As John and his friend were walking along the river, they noticed a depression on the ground up ahead it. It looked unnatural like something had happened to the ground. They continued on to check it out and as they got closer John noticed something sticking out of the ground. He bent down and inspected it closer, he was right it was a piece of denim sticking out of the ground. It was a flap of denim, so John reached down and tugged it to figure out what the heck was going on. But when he grabbed the piece of denim, he quickly realized it wasn't just a shirt or jeans underneath the flap and under his hand, John was staring at skin, something or someone was in the depression in the ground.

John a cop himself, immediately called the Alaska State Troopers and they began digging up the ground. With each shovel of dirt, the smell of decomposition grew stronger and stronger. The atmosphere was quiet as the team worked to uncover what they all knew was under the dirt. After clearing the area, a caucasian female fully clothed laid in the hole murdered. There was an ace bandage wrapped around her head, similarly to like a mummy.

When police sifted through the loose dirt they had dug up, they discovered a .223 caliber shell casing. The medical examiner noted that the jane doe had one bullet hole in her chest. A month later in October 1982, police finally identified the body as 24-year-old Sherry Morrow.

Anchorage in the 80s

During the 80s, Anchorage Alaska was actually in the middle of an oil boom. In 1982, people were flooding the city from other states to take advantage of the new oil money and job opportunities that were to be found there. Because of that downtown Anchorage became a little more dangerous, a party city.

Men roamed the streets at night looking for a way to spend their night before going back to work in the morning in the oil fields. At this time 4th Avenue street was full of dance clubs and massage parlors, all open for the new crowd that had moved into Anchorage. Fourth Avenue clubs were full of drugs and alcohol. Downtown Anchorage came alive at midnight, and at the time there was tolerance to this kind of lifestyle here, that wasn't everywhere else in the United States.

At this time Alaska was just far enough away for this to kind of be accepted. So 24-year-old Sherry Morrow was recruited to Alaska to be a dancer. She was approached and told that they would fly her there, and give her a place to stay. All she had to do was dance in these new clubs. But like most girls who arrived, the place she was staying at was not nice and as she lived for free and danced for these people that incurred somehow, Sherry no longer had free will to leave, because she was told that she now owed these people who gave her this opportunity.

At the time of her murder, she lived with another dancer at the time, and that dancer remembers the last time she saw Sherry, pretty vividly. They were working at the club when a man approached her roommate and asked if she wanted to go on a real date like get out of the club and go on a real date tomorrow. She politely declined but the man persisted explaining that he had a small plane that he could fly and they could go anywhere.

Sherry's roommate was not interested in any work outside of the club, so she declined and as the night wrapped up, she and Sherry headed home. The next morning, Sherry woke up and explained to her roommate that she had a date that day with a man with a plane, who seemed nice and wanted to take her out.

Her roommate explained how okay you know this man had actually asked her first but she had had a bad feeling about it. Sherry listened but insisted that everything was fine the man had seemed nice to her and she was kind of hoping for something outside of dancing at the club and maybe this was her answer so she was going to go meet him soon to go on this date. She asked her roommate to actually walk her down the road where she had agreed to meet this man and her roommate agreed. Together they walked said their goodbyes and her roommate made her way back home she never saw Sherry again.

Anchorage Police

It's pretty safe to say the Anchorage police were actively working on this case, but once they discovered Sherry was a dancer, they took her murder a little less seriously. She had no family nearby. She was a very vulnerable victim, probably targeted on purpose. Sadly we know this happens often and honestly, this still happens today, although there has been movement in recent years on this issue with police taking sex workers and minorities murders seriously.

With most police lessening up on the case there was one officer who refused to turn a blind eye Maxine Farrell was one of the first two women who worked in the anchorage police department. In the 80s she worked in the homicide unit she had no locker room at the department and no office because she was a woman. But when she found out that Sherry Morrow was the victim and who she was, she pled with the department to listen to her because Maxine believed that Sherry Morrow was not the first victim in this investigation. She actually believed that they had a serial killer on their hands. So two years earlier on July 17 1980 the Anchorage police department got a call and they were dispatched out to Eklutna which is roughly 28 miles north of Anchorage some electrical workers were in the area working at the access place for them, when they came across skeletal remains Maxine Farrell was sent out to the scene and assigned the case. Upon first glance she suspected the victim was a local sex worker or dancer based upon the jewelry and clothing that was found with the remains. The jane doe had no id on them and nobody had reported anyone missing as of recent Maxine didn't find this odd though a lot of the workers had no family and they could have been new to the area.

The cause of death was determined to be a stab wound. Because they had the skeletal remains police decided to reconstruct the face of what they thought this female would look like. Once they had it Maxine released the picture everywhere that she could think of but no one came back with oh I know this woman. And to this day the identity of jane doe Eklutna remains unknown. But it was while Maxine was looking for the identity and the killer of that first victim that the anchorage police department received a missing person's report, 24-year-old Roxane Easland.

Although Roxane was not the victim from Eklutna, she definitely matched the profile of the victim and every so often more missing person reports would come into the department young women in their 20s who were working as sex workers or dancers were missing.


Does Anchorage Have a Serial Killer?

So Maxine is like noticing this, they just found the skeletal remains and now they have more missing persons coming in that kind of match the same description as the skeletal remains and she's like something's going on. It doesn't make sense that all these women in their 20s are going missing but they never found another
body for her to prove her theory that only women were going missing the only body they had at that point was the skeletal remains but now fast forward two years Maxine is now staring into the eyes of Sherry Morrow's case and she just knows so she tells the department, listen we have a serial killer who is targeting local dancers and sex workers we now have another body to prove it. And no one believes her Maxine was told by anyone who listened that these women disappeared all the time and they probably just moved on to a new city and they weren't the department's problem. But Maxine insists she knows someone is targeting these women so, despite orders and chain of command, she starts working the cases alone. The first thing Maxine does after her theory is turned down is gather all of the missing person reports that match the victim profile of women under 30 who were working in the area and randomly disappeared one day once she gathers those names she begins getting a hold of friends and family to figure out who each girl was what they commonly wore jewelry they owned every detail she could find.

And after narrowing all of this down Maxine had discovered 10 women in the area who fit the profile. so 10 women have gone. Within two years ten women have been missing and there have been more women missing but after talking to friends and family like those ones have moved on somewhere else maybe. So she figures these 10 really fit the profile really just went missing out of the blue and we don't exactly know where they are. So when Maxine finally put together this official list with all the details they knew of these women she once again took it to her superiors and tried to convince them look she said these are all of the missing women in the area who match the profile all of them have gone missing in the last two years it has to be a serial killer but her superiors and fellow comrades laughed in her face again and told her she was wrong and that she was stepping outside of her authority. Remember she's one of two women in this department.

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Maxine Continues to Hunt a Serial Killer

So by 1983, Maxine is still secretly working on her theory. On September 28th, two
hunters were walking about a mile downstream from where Cheri O'Mara was found when they stumbled upon another body. She was young caucasian and had a bullet hole through her heart. They found another 223 caliber shell casing near the body. It was at this point that not only was Maxine sure that they had a serial killer but the whole city of anchorage started to throw the idea around too.

With the panic spreading through the city the sergeant decided to talk to Maxine again and hear out her theory, someone is literally hunting these women with a rifle like that's what's happening. So it was after talking to Maxine that the sergeant decided it was final, they would put together a task force to work the theory officially to please the public and you know they would work off Maxine's theory.

So the sergeant's like here Maxine you can lead this task force. You've already been working on this for over a year by yourself. Maxine's like nope she was angry and tired and wanted no part in the official task force now. So she handed over the names everything she had and the police department released them over to the public for help. And Maxine was like I'm not helping you guys when you didn't believe me, yeah i mean that's a sticky situation right because she's like now you want my help so I've been trying to do this for almost two years yeah did no one even believe me or even looked at me and talked to me about it.

A Victim Escapes

On June 13th 1983, the anchorage dispatch got a call that there was a caucasian female running down fifth avenue butt naked and handcuffed. Some guy had offered to pick her up and take her somewhere. She obviously needed help so by the time police responded the girl had been dropped off at a hotel. And when they entered the room she was in she was still handcuffed and naked and panicked. Police found her some clothes, got her out of the handcuffs and tried to calm her down.

By the time they got her calmed down enough to speak she said her name was Cindy Paulson and she was 17 years old. She told them that she had been on the corner when a man pulled off and talked to her when she agreed to the service
that he was asking for and got into his car. He eventually pulled over again and put a gun to her head he got handcuffs out handcuffed her and told her to be quiet he said if she did exactly what he asked and caused no problems he would let her go She said he then drove her to his house which she noted was on old harbor road took her downstairs, into a man cave. That's what she called it and forced her to have sex on a large bear skin rug. So it's basically one of those rugs it's like a bear with the head.

So then she tells police that this man then wrapped a chain around her neck and left her there in the basement chained up. She was down there for about four to five hours alone. He eventually came back down and told her that he was going to take her out to his cabin to spend the weekend together. Cindy begged and pleaded with him to take her home because she actually lived with her mom who would be worried by this point that she had been gone this long. And she probably knew that if she went there for the weekend she was not coming back. So he refused to tell her about this plane that they would take to get to her cabin and she knew what this guy was like she just knew. So when they got to the airport and he got out to situate the plane and get it ready to put her in, she actually opened the back door of the car still handcuffed no clothes no shoes and started running for her life through the runway.

She ran until the man in the truck that i talked about earlier stopped to help her and now here she was in the hotel room with the police yeah He chased her for a while but then when he realized they were out in public he just turned around and went
back because he's freaking out like oh crap everyone's gonna see me. It's not like he was chasing her through the woods. They were at the airport, there were people around. So police take her to the hospital to get a rape kit done but on the way, they actually pass by the small airport and they drive around and have her point out the plane that the man was getting ready to put her into they're like can you find it do
you remember what it looks like and she does she finds it and once she does police drop her off at the hospital and then begin following up on the lead, they call the airport and they get the name and information about the owner of the plane the owner of the small plane was 42-year-old Robert Hansen.

Robert Hansen

Robert Hansen ran a bakery called Hansen's bakery in town. He was married
to a woman named Darla Hansen who was a woman of faith that attended the local
church. But Robert never really came with her to church. Darla was a local teacher who excelled very much in that like she was adored around town she actually worked with kids who needed a little bit of extra help and so everyone loved her together Darla and Robert had two children named Christy and Johnny Robert loved to hunt but struggled to make friends. In fact, Darla would actually often set up many play dates for Robert with other grown men. But he turned every one of them off in the friendship so because he couldn't make friends on his own Darla would be at church and be like do you want to hang out with my husband.

So one of the guys he actually like tried hunting. With that Darla set up he hunted with Robert and then afterwards he told another friend that he felt like Robert enjoyed the kill a little too much and it made him uncomfortable so he wasn't going to hang out with him anymore. By all initial accounts, Robert didn't really have any friends but it's not like the police were like oh this guy causes problems.

Around town he lived a fairly normal life in anchorage he was a baker he owned a bakery. So why was he sexually assaulting a 17-year-old and attempting to fly her to his cabin in the wood, instead of just letting her go. Police made their way to the Hanson's home and surprisingly he cooperated with police. He told them that he owned a local bakery and that he wasn't with anyone that morning they asked if they could take a look in the basement anyways they needed to see the room that Cindy had described and when they made their way downstairs there it was the bear skin rug, animal heads mounted all over the walls, everything matched up to Cindy's story. But there was no real physical evidence in the basement and in that moment police decided to believe Robert over Cindy who was 17 and less credible according to them. So they dropped her case chalked it up to her being upset that he wouldn't pay her and never looked into it again.

Robert Hansen Somehow Avoiding Serious Jail Time

But there was one officer again, a man named Greg Baker who did believe Cindy and after all of this he decided that once again like Maxine he would investigate it in secret on his own. I do have to say here that we now have two police in this
force who are like okay well I'm gonna get made fun of or I'm gonna get in trouble there's going to be consequences for this but I'm going to do this like I believe this so they have good hearts you know what I mean like stand up for this stuff.

And on the surface Robert Hansen seemed normal like we were talking about but
when Greg Baker dug deeper it turned out to be a completely different story. Robert Hansen grew up in a small town, his parents owned a bakery. His dad did
most of the baking like Robert would go on to do. That's what inspired Robert to start a bakery of his own.

Robert was quiet he had a stutter as a kid and he was bullied and his family was super strict he also had severe acne that would go on to like scar his face later. So in pictures of him you can see that he has scars on his face from this Robert never had a girlfriend in high school most of them turned him down because of the things we were talking about earlier and when he graduated he joined the army where he had his first sexual encounter with a sex worker. When he left the army Robert came home and actually burned down the high school bus barn because he hated high school.

So his parents embarrassed by this sold the bakery and moved to Minnesota where they bought a small resort that they would run and own. While at the resort Robert met Darla his future wife whom we were talking about. Together they moved to Alaska in 1967 after getting married on November 22, 1971. Robert Hansen had actually tried to abduct a real estate secretary named Susan Heppeard. He had seen her downtown and waited for her to go home and then followed her to her home seeing where she lived. The next day he came back with a gun and tried to abduct her but unbeknownst to him the real estate secretary had roommates and they came out and saw what was happening and so they called the cops.

Robert Hansen was arrested at 32 years old and released on bell while waiting for his court date to be set. While Robert was out on bail police received a call from a victim named Patricia Roberts who said she had been taken from downtown anchorage by gunpoint she was taken and sexually assaulted but miraculously convinced him to bring her home. She identified her attacker as Robert Hansen and once again police arrested him but Robert cut a deal.

This time he pled guilty to assault with a deadly weapon for the attack on Susan Heppeard, which is the real estate secretary, in exchange for his charges against Patricia Roberts who is the sex worker to be dropped. He was sentenced to five years in prison on March 24th 1972.

I think this like these first initial attacks taught robert that if he chose sex workers or dancers instead of real estate secretaries, he could get away with it because police easily easily dropped the case involving patricia and if he picked someone that police didn't care about.

Police Finally Start to Close In on Hansen

When Greg discovered Robert Hansen's tendency to be violent towards women in his past. The way he grew up he knew for sure that Cindy was telling the truth. And on top of that, he knew about the other list of victims that Maxine had put together
and that they had been working at this time so he felt strongly that not only had Robert Hansen done this to Cindy Paulson, he was also a strong suspect for Maxine's list as well. Greg gathered all of the reports for all of these cases that he figured and knew were tied to Robert and handed them over to the troopers who had the authority to do something about it. Greg knew that circumventing his superiors and going straight to the troopers with this information would result in consequences if he was caught, but he also knew that it was worth it.

And it paid off because Robert Hansen was moved up to the number one suspect on everything. Troopers and police knew they needed to get Robert Hansen off the streets and fast but did they have enough evidence to arrest him was the question. They decided to lure Robert Hansen out of his home on October 27 1983 by asking him to come down to the station to talk. He agreed and when he sat down they showed him a large stack of folders that all had his name on them they hung up a map with his house and location circled that mattered in this investigation.

They had staged the room to worry him okay to make it look like they had been investigating him for years they began talking to him about his childhood and the previous attacks that he had been arrested for they then confronted him with all the
new abductions and bodies that they had found recently and he adamantly denied it.

He told them that any time he's been arrested it was because the girls wanted to overcharge him for the services and it was all misunderstandings and he said the only reason he was interacting with sex workers in the first place was that he wanted oral sex and that was something that he would never let his wife perform because it's degrading for women to do that.

While Robert is being interrogated police are also at his home searching. They asked Maxine to come back on the case and help search because she knew these victims better than anyone. So maybe she would recognize something from the house trophies that Robert had taken. She talked to Darla and the two children and they were all scared. Police made their way up to the attic when searching the insulation in the walls police uncovered three rifles.

One of them was the 223 that was used on the women they had found buried hidden in the insulation. In another part of the wall in insulation, there was a plastic baggie stuffed in there with tons of jewelry in it, so Maxine was called over and she positively identified all of the jewelry as those pieces belonging to some of the missing women she had tied to the case. Remember she'd gone to the family she'd gone to friends she'd said tell me what jewelry they wear what clothing they wear what is a trophy that a killer could possibly take from them.

And now she had them memorized so she was easily able to do this they also found at the house an air map which is basically just a map but like from up above with random pencil markings all over it. And it took a couple of weeks but one detective decided to cross-check these asterisk markings with the burial sites that they knew of so far. And when two of them matched police realized that there might be you know more bodies out there because there were more asterisks on this map and this man had killed much more women than they ever thought.

There were 21 asterisk markings on the map that match the two asterisk markings where they knew the bodies were found that's horrible 21 people so as police are looking at this they're like Robert Hansen really killed over 20 women. We only had 10 on the initial list. Like 10 was what we initially thought and now there are 21.

There were 21 markings on this map this was now basically for police an open and shut case. They had the evidence they needed there was no arguing this well there shouldn't have been but we know how nothing really means anything once you're in court like it really doesn't matter. So they were like we really could use a confession we never know how these cases are going to go in court four months later while waiting in jail Robert Hansen asked to talk to a preacher and asked him what kind of sins god forgives. After this whole conversation with the preacher, Robert Hansen asked to talk to the police and he confessed to every crime.

robert-hansen-the-butcher-baker

Robert Hansen Confesses

Robert Hansen went through the map touching each mark and explaining who
the girl was and what happened. He remembered it just like that, he didn't know names but he was like i picked this girl up here, this is what happened, and this is how i killed her. This is where she's buried. Each one of those markings based on his confession most girls were undressed and forced to run through the forest for their life while Robert hunted them like animals. He would pick these girls up fly them out, let them go in the forest, let them run for a while, and then he would hunt them down and kill them like animals. That is the craziest thing I've ever heard That was the game he liked to play. He literally hunted people i can now imagine how that one guy felt when he said he liked killing the animals a little too much. He confessed to 17 murders that day. 17 bodies that he had buried which honestly, if you think about that 17 women and there was probably more he didn't confess to.

So on February 27th, 1984 Robert Hansen was charged with the murders of Sherry Morrow, Paula Goulding, Eklutna Jane Doe, and Joanna Messina, plus the kidnapping and rape of Cindy Paulson. so they did eventually get him for Cindy. He was not charged but confessed to the murders of Roxane Easland, Lisa Futrell, and several others. He was sentenced to 461 years plus life seven more bodies were found after the sentencing in April and May of 1984.
all using Robert's map.

Robert Hansen died in prison in 2014 at the age of 75.

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