Robert Hansen is known in the media as the “Butcher Baker,” was an American serial killer. Between 1971 and 1983, Hansen abducted, raped, and murdered at least 17 women in and around Anchorage, Alaska; he hunted many of them down in the wilderness with a Ruger Mini-14 and a knife. He was arrested and convicted in 1983, and was sentenced to 461 years and a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
On December 7, 1960, Hansen was arrested for burning down a Pocahontas County Board of Education school bus garage, revenge for his unpopularity in high school. He served 20 months of a three-year prison sentence in Anamosa State Penitentiary. During his incarceration, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (at that time called “manic depression”) with periodic schizophrenic episodes. The psychiatrist who made the diagnosis noted that Hansen had an “infantile personality” and was obsessed with getting back at people he felt had wronged him. Hansen’s wife filed for divorce 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 and with whom he had two children. In Anchorage, he was well liked by his neighbors and set several local hunting records.
In December 1971, Hansen was arrested twice: once for the abduction and attempted rape of a housewife, and again for raping a prostitute. He pleaded no contest to assault with a deadly weapon in the offense involving the housewife; the rape charge involving the prostitute was dropped as part of a plea bargain. He was sentenced to five years in prison; after serving six months of his sentence, he was placed on a work release program and released to a halfway house.
In 1976, Hansen pleaded guilty to larceny after he was caught stealing a chainsaw from Fred Meyer, an Anchorage department store; he was sentenced to five years in prison and required to receive psychiatric treatment for his bipolar disorder. The Alaska Supreme Court reduced his sentence, and he was released with time served.
Hansen is believed to have begun killing around 1972. His modus operandi was to pick up a prostitute in his car, and force her at gunpoint to his cabin, where he would rape her; he would then fly her out to a secluded area and “hunt” her as if she were wild game before shooting or stabbing her.
On June 13, 1983, Hansen offered 17-year-old sex-worker Cindy Paulson $200 to perform oral sex; when she got into the car, he pulled a gun on her and drove her to his home in Muldoon. There, he held her captive, and proceeded to torture and rape her. She later told police that after Hansen chained her by the neck to a post in the house’s basement, he took a nap on a nearby couch. When he awoke, he put her in his car and took her to Merrill Field airport, where he told her that he intended to “take her out to his cabin” (a shack in the Knik River area of the Matanuska Valley accessible only by boat or bush plane). Paulson, crouched in the back seat of the car with her wrists cuffed in front of her body, saw a chance to escape when Hansen was busy loading the airplane’s cockpit. While Hansen’s back was turned, Paulson crawled out of the back seat, opened the driver’s side door, and ran toward nearby Sixth Avenue.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent John Douglas was requested help with a criminal psychological profile, based on the three recovered bodies. Douglas thought 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. He also suggested that the assailant might stutter. Using this profile, Flothe investigated possible suspects until he reached Hansen, who fit the profile and owned a plane.
Supported by Paulson’s testimony and Douglas’ profile, Flothe and the APD secured a warrant to search Hansen’s plane, vehicles, and home. On October 27, 1983, investigators uncovered jewelry belonging to some of the missing women as well as an array of firearms in a corner hideaway of Hansen’s attic. Also found was an aeronautical chart with little “x” marks on it, hidden behind Hansen’s headboard. Many of these marks matched sites where prior bodies had been found (others were discovered later at those then unexplored).
When confronted with the evidence found in his home, Hansen denied it as long as he could, but he eventually began to blame the women and tried to justify his actions. Eventually confessing to each item of evidence as it was presented to him, he admitted to a spree of attacks against Alaskan women starting in 1971. Hansen’s earliest victims were girls, usually between 16 and 19 and not sex workers, unlike the victims who led to his discovery.
Of these 17 women, Hansen was only formally charged with the murders of four: Sherry Morrow, Joanna Messina, “Eklutna Annie“, and Paula Goulding. He was also charged with the kidnapping and rape of Cindy Paulson.
Hansen died on August 21, 2014, aged 75, at Alaska Regional Hospital in Anchorage, due to natural causes from lingering health conditions.