Number of victims: 17 - 21+
Date of murders: 1973 - 1983
Method of murder: Shooting
In 1980, the remains of murdered women began showing up in remote wilderness areas around Anchorage, Alaska. All of the women had been shot with a high-powered rifle and once ballistics matched the bullets to a single weapon, the police knew that they had a serial killer on their hands. A task force was assembled but it would be three years before a lucky break led them to a suspect, a local businessman and avid hunter named Robert Hansen.
Hansen was originally from Pocohantas, Idaho and had come to Alaska in 1967, looking for a fresh start after serving time in his home state for arson. In Anchorage, he set up a successful bakery business and mostly stayed out of trouble. He did serve a short jail term for theft, although that minor offense gave no hint of what was to come.
On June 13, 1983, a young woman flagged down a trucker on a road near an Anchorage air field. The woman claimed that a man had assaulted her, then handcuffed her and tried to force her into a small aircraft. The police were called and the perpetrator was quickly identified as Hansen.
Hansen, however, had an alibi. Two friends claimed that he’d spent the evening playing cards with them. That set the investigation back, although the police were convinced that the alibi witnesses were lying and that Hansen was the serial killer they’d been tracking. Eventually, they brought in Hansen’s friends and threatened them with jail time if they were found to be lying. The men then cracked and admitted that they had been covering for Hansen.
A search was carried out at Hansen’s house, turning up several rifles, including one that proved to be the murder weapon. There was also a map, with red crosses indicating the sites of each of the murders, 17 in all.
Faced with the evidence against him, Hansen quickly confessed. He said that his victims were all prostitutes or exotic dancers who he’d lured to his house by promising them money to pose for nude photographs. Once there, he’d overpower the woman, cuff and rape her. He’d then force her into his car and drive to the airfield. From there, he’d fly out to his remote cabin, where he would continue assaulting and raping the victim. Once he’d satisfied his carnal lusts, Hansen would turn the woman loose, naked and on foot. He’d give her a short head start then follow, hunting her down as he would game, killing her with his rifle, or with a hunting knife.
Robert Hansen was eventually found guilty on four counts of murder and sentenced to 461 years in prison. He died on August 21, 2014, aged 75.