Arrest of Robert Hansen: Failure Upon Failure

Not everything goes according to plan. That was certainly true at the end of January, 1984, a stretch filled with what looked like one failure after another. Three witnesses, who could tie Robert Hansen to weapons he tried to ditch after Cindy Paulson’s escape, couldn’t reach consensus as to which of the weapons in their possession belonged to Hansen. And then there was Hansen lawyer Fred Dewey’s failure to show for an evidence review with Anchorage D.A. Frank Rothschid.

If there was a ray of sunshine, it was hearing from a Hansen associate about the baker’s possible involvement in the disappearances of two young women in Seward, back in the 70’s, when both were students at the Seward Skill Center (now called the Alaska Vocational Technical Center). Megan Emerick disappeared in 1972. Mary Thill had gone missing three years later. The news was tantalizing, but hard to process: Hansen’s maps showed three X marks in Seward’s Resurrection Bay. There was a fair chance that, short of a Hansen confession, these two disappearances would also end up in the failure column.

Would the sum be an epic failure? It was too early to tell.

1/25/84: Sergeant FLOTHE and Sergeant HAUGSVEN interviewed JOHN T. CASEY, previous associate of ROBERT HANSEN that believes HANSEN may be involved in the disappearance of the two girls from Seward. CASEY’s belief is based upon articles read in the newspaper and the fact that HANSEN at one time had asked CASEY if he knew of any girls in Seward that they could party with.

JOHN HENNING, JOANNE HENNING and son interviewed by Sergeant FLOTHE and Sergeant HAUGSVEN at AST Headquarters with regards to identifying the weapons which HANSEN turned over to JOHN HENNING on June 13th, 1983 the date that CINDY PAULSEN escaped from ROBERT HANSEN. All three members of the HENNING family picked out three different weapons and three different holsters, with regards to the weapon that HANSEN had allegedly given to JOHN HENNING.

1/30/84: Met at AST/CIB with ROTHSCHLD to view evidence with FRED DEWEY for defense for HANSEN. DEWEY failed to show up.

Fred Dewey

“As expected, Hansen’s defense attorney filed a detailed motion challenging the legality of the search warrant. Fred Dewey asked the Superior Court to reject evidence seized in the October 27 search of Hansen’s property. He also asked that the trial be moved to ‘a location not readily influenced by the print and electronic media of Anchorage.’ According to Dewey, ‘Extensive publicity linking Robert Hansen with the missing dancer investigation has made it impossible to seat an impartial jury in Anchorage.’

“Dewey accused police of resurrecting the rape accusation—four months after dropping it for lack of evidence—as a pretext to obtain the search warrant. By October, he charged, Hansen had become a suspect in the case of the disappearing dancers. But police had no evidence against him and could not have gotten a search warrant in that case.

“The warrant that was finally issued, Dewey wrote, was illegally broad and allowed police to ‘rummage about’ Hansen’s home, plane and vehicles. Dewey also noted that when police searched Hansen’s property the June rape accusation was too old to provide legitimate probable cause for a search. Therefore, he said, all evidence found in the various searches should be ruled inadmissible in court.

“Dewey’s motion also made a pointed attack on the FBI profiling techniques, which argued that Hansen fit the profile of a serial murderer. Dewey argued that the inclusion of the FBI serial killer profile, and the comments of Dr. Rothrock to the effect that Hansen ‘might be involved with the missing dancers,’ improperly influenced Superior Court Judge Victor Carlson to approve ‘an illegal search.’

“Dewey also took issue with the list of Hansen’s past convictions cited in the search warrant. He noted that such references are not considered legal grounds for issuing search warrants.

“Taken together, it was enough to cause the prosecution plenty of worry. All the second-guessing done by the DA each step of the way had finally been borne out.”

Excerpt From: Walter Gilmour & Leland E. Hale. “Butcher, Baker.

Purchase Butcher, Baker