Robert Hansen’s Flight Map

First off, thanks to the wonderful students at the University of Alaska – Anchorage who met with the Butcher, Baker authors on 7 November 2013. Your questions, your curiosity and your passion are remarkable.

One of the things I discovered during our interaction was how interested you were in the victim map that Robert Hansen kept, using a flight map as a starting point. The map is gruesome documentation of Hansen’s savagery and cruelty — and the single best image of the scope of his crimes. Each colored circle represents a possible victim burial place. There are 24 circles in all.

Robert Hansen’s Flight Map (annotated by AST Glenn Flothe)

Hansen's flight map

Legend:

  • Blue Circle = Hansen admits victim
  • Yellow Circle = Hansen denies victim

Butcher, Baker; Frozen Ground; Fair Game

This too will pass… but indulge me for a moment while I eat sour grapes…

This should be a happy week. The movie version of the Robert Hansen serial murder case, called Frozen Ground, is enjoying a limited opening in theaters somewhere in America. But in the grand scheme of things, um… There’s not as much happiness as I would have liked…

My book, Butcher, Baker, is an afterthought in all of this. A coulda, woulda, shoulda. My gut sense is still that it shouldn’t have come to this, but life is complex and sometimes co-authors (and literary agents) don’t see eye-to-eye. I am trying to be diplomatic.

To add insult to injury, I just got a mail from Amazon, touting Fair Game, another book about Robert Hansen. Calling it “the Definitive Account of the Crimes of Alaska Serial Killer Robert Hansen.” For the record, I just want to say “bullshit.”

But you be the judge. Read both books. See the movie. Look at the arc of the story. Pay attention to how long it takes Cindy Paulson to appear in each version (and yes, it’s true, the publisher made us give her a pseudonym; think of her as the 17 year old who got away).

And Bernard, no hard feelings. Really. Congratulations. Fair Game, right?

Take Two: Frozen Ground Trailer

For the moment, there seems to be a site where the Frozen Ground trailer actually works. Thanks, Emmett/Furla Productions. Our collective breath is, um, not exactly being held… UPDATE: The PC-friendly version was Gone in 15 Seconds. Or should I say, Gone In 60 Seconds.

However: The trailer still works on my iPad. And my smartphone. So, we recommend mobile devices for viewing the trailer. It’s the only way. Go figure.

Frozen Ground Trailer

And if nothing else you can always read the original. Butcher, Baker, is available at Amazon. Highly recommended.

Frozen Ground: The Trailer

The trailer is out for Frozen Ground, the film inspired by [1] Butcher, Baker. Here’s a screen capture of Vanessa Hudgens as stripper and prostitute, Cindy Paulson. Not much left to the imagination, I’d say. So much for her Disney image.

Vanessa Hudgens in Frozen Ground

Well, let’s correct a few things. The trailer was available for a little while (week of August 19th). More than a few sites purport to have it; the trailer quickly went viral. But if you’re in the U.S., you’ll get a not-so-cryptic ERROR MESSAGE. Seems there are some problems about the rights. Both copyright and country rights.

Message on U.S. Trailer Sites
Frozen Ground: Copyright Warning

Interestingly enough, one gets a different error message when trying to view the trailer on the French site, Cinema Teaser. UPDATE: Cinema Teaser now reports that its trailer was also pulled for copyright issues. We’ll keep you posted.

Message on EU Trailer Site
Frozen Ground Trailer: Cinema Teaser (France)

ANSWER ME THIS
Here’s the question: if you’re going blockbuster, why play games with the trailer? Why NOT make it broadly available? I’m educated-guessing here, but I tend to agree with Brad Brevet on Rope of Silicon.

Lionsgate is distributing the pic with IMDb reporting a November 30 release date, but this feels like one of those limited release/VOD titles if you ask me with a DVD/Blu-ray release about a month later.

In fact, I’ll go one step further and posit that the limited release will initially focus on Europe. Hence, the Cinema Teaser video from France, among the first sites to feature the trailer.

The fact that there is a European trailer at all tells you where the money is; U.S. domestic sales are falling, international sales are not. There’s also this telling tidbit from The Numbers on box office statistics. The key columns to watch are 1) Weekly Gross, 2) Theaters and 3) Per Theater. Limited Release = Limited Butts in Seats = Limited per Theater Revenue.

Butts in seats still count. And realistically, Frozen Ground already made its money. Film subsidies. State of Alaska.

Global Boxoffice: MPAA

NOTE: Another explanation is here. It shares a similar assessment, expecting a lag in the U.S. theatrical release. Hmmmm…

[1] Maybe I should say “appropriated” because the arc of the movie is absolutely identical to Butcher, Baker. Opens with the escape of the teenage prostitute. Segues to the sensitive Trooper. Yeah. I’ve read the script. Oh, and I wrote the book. First published in 1991. Before the internet existed. Answer me that.

Most Anticipated Movies 2012: The Frozen Ground?

IMDb, the movie database, has a social feature that encourages fans to put together lists of their most anticipated movies. It’s a fun feature, not to be taken too seriously, but a peek into the psyche of the devoted movie-goer nonetheless.

My question is this: where does The Frozen Ground, the movie inspired by Butcher, Baker, show up on these lists?

The answer is “pretty high up.” Here’s a sampling. Of course, this is a very selective sample. What did you expect? There’s more than a few lists where… um… The Frozen Ground is nowhere to be found. You can find those lists on your own!

Movies We HAVE to see in 2012 (lulie1810)IMDb - lists

30 Most Anticipated Movies of 2012 (simon-evgp) IMDb - lists

Movies That I Can’t Wait Till They’re Released (lbtrev) IMDb - lists

Most Waited to See in 2012 (cristianoumberto) IMDb - lists

The Most Anticipated Movies of 2012 (romtonkon) IMDb - lists

Cereal Killers & All That

Nice to hear some buzz about “The Frozen Ground,” the movie inspired by “Butcher, Baker.” But then you come across a piece like the one below in Yahoo! Answers and you, ah, start to wonder. I’m quoting:

Is anyone looking forward to “The Frozen Ground”?

Its a movie about the 1980s Alaska hunt for the cereal killer Robert Hanson. Its got Nicholas Cage and John Cusack, it looks fantastic. Its in filming now and comes out in theaters on the 1st of December.

At least the Best Answer sets the record straight. Whew. Gotta love the image of Frosted Mini Wheats trying to run away from bad Bob Hansen…

Robert Hansen & His Victims

Toni Lister was 29 years old when she was murdered in Seward, Alaska. She was last seen alive on a Saturday night. Saturday, March 6, 1982, to be exact.

Calendar March 1982

Could Hansen have been there to kidnap, rape and kill her? He certainly knew Seward well enough. In his own words, taken from his February, 1984, confession:

I know an awful lot of people that’s down to Seward, that goes down there for the weekend… In the spring I would take my boat and pickup and camper and drive to Seward and leave it, then just drive a car back and forth or else fly, fly back and forth, one or the two.

So that one’s a push. March isn’t quite “spring” in Alaska. But Hansen admits to being a Seward weekender.

Was Toni Lister his “type?”

This is where is gets interesting. For there is a profile to Hansen’s victims. While more suggestive than determinative, it is still worth considering.

At age 29, Toni Lister was at the upper range of the Hansen victim profile. Hansen’s oldest victim was 30 (reported missing April 24, 1983). That woman (Paula Goulding) was a bit of an outlier; although older than the others, she was new to dancing and very inexperienced. Another woman, aged “approximately” 28, reported an assault by Hansen back in October, 1975. That woman was a teacher, up in Alaska earning extra money during summer break. Also inexperienced.

The average age of the nine Hansen victims (not all killed) for whom information is available… was not quite 22. Four of them were 17 or 18. The rest were barely over 21.

Yes, there’s a pattern here. Robert Hansen was no smooth talker like the good-looking Ted Bundy. He was butt ugly and he stuttered. He preferred victims who were young and inexperienced. Or just plain inexperienced. Why? The savvy women knew to stay away from him. They knew he was dangerous.

I’d like to think Toni Lister would have known. Would have suspected. Would have seen something amiss.

But then there’s Jimmy Lee Eacker.

A Tale of Two Maps

Toni Lister was reported missing in Seward, Alaska, on March 7, 1982. Her body was found a month and a half later. An autopsy showed she had been sexually assaulted and brutally stabbed 26 times with a Phillips screw driver.

Nine months later, on October 26, 1982, Robert Hansen was arrested on kidnapping and rape charges — and later confessed to the brutal murders of four women in Alaska, although the known death toll is much higher (at least 17 victims). In the final days and months of his killing spree, according to autopsy reports, Hansen had gone into a frenzy of violence, not only shooting the women, but stabbing them multiple times. When asked about the Lister murder by Alaska State Troopers, however, Hansen denied it.

It wasn’t until 2007 that cold case investigators made an arrest in Toni Lister’s murder. The man they arrested was not Robert Hansen. They instead arrested Jimmy Lee Eacker, a trade school friend of Lister’s husband. He had been an early suspect.

Is it possible that police have the wrong man?

Let’s be clear. Jimmy Eacker is no choirboy. He has an armed robbery conviction. He’s a registered sex offender. At his 2007 trial, at least two witnesses testified that he’d raped and threatened violence against them during the ’80s. He acknowledged he’d had sex with Toni Lister on the night in question. Beyond that, he claims he can’t remember killing Toni Lister because he was high on mushrooms.

To complicate matters, the critical DNA evidence in the case — the DNA that tied Eacker to Lister’s murder — was seriously compromised. More specifically, it was contaminated to the point where more than one person’s DNA was found. Several factors were involved, including sloppy lab work. The judge, upon learning of this, threw out Eacker’s conviction and ordered a new trial.

That’s where the maps come into play.

When Hansen was arrested, troopers found aviation maps at his home with hand-drawn markers on them. Those markers later proved to be spots where Hansen victims would be discovered. Once troopers started unearthing bodies, Sgt. Glenn Flothe created a parallel aviation map, marking spots that Hansen had “missed.” Flothe also color-coded his map, with blue marks for victims Hansen acknowledged killing, yellow for those he denied.

There are key differences between those two maps. Flothe’s map has more markers than Hansen’s. Including one very near where Toni Lister’s body was found (#23) — a marker missing from the Hansen map.

Glenn Flothe’s cryptic note about #23? “Denied.” Indeed, the Flothe map shows that Hansen claimed only one of the Seward markers represented a victim. The sole exception was Joanna Messina (#17), whose body was found in… 1980.

So by his own admission, Hansen had been in the Seward area as late as 1980 — and routinely visited Seward in the ’70s, during which time police have evidence of at least one kidnapping and rape (1971). There are also two very suspicious Seward disappearances (1973, 1975) that Hansen denied; suspicious because Hansen was known to be in Seward both times. Troopers speculate that Hansen denied those presumed murders because the victims weren’t prostitutes.

Could Robert Hansen have killed Toni Lister? Yes. Could Jimmy Lee Eacker have killed Toni Lister? Yes. Anyone else? Maybe.

The lesson? If you are going to go cold-casing, don’t cut corners on the lab work required to pinpoint the DNA. After thirty years, memories go bad. DNA evidence is not always perfect or pristine, but carelessness in the lab can be prevented.

AST Version of Hansen’s Flight Map (portion)

Sgt. Glenn Flothe's version of Hansen's flight map

Hansen’s Flight Map (portion)

Hansen's original flight map

Butcher, Baker: Hidden City, Pt. 3

Trooper Sgt. Glenn Flothe has described Cindy Paulson (Kitty Larson), the young woman who escaped Hansen and led to his downfall, as one of the best witnesses he’s ever worked with. Hidden City: Anchorage mentions, for example, that she’d memorized the tail number of Hansen’s plane. She also memorized the location of his house. And everything in his basement.

She did so because, in her own words, “this motherfucker wasn’t getting away with it… I knew I was in trouble… But if there was any chance of me getting away, he wasn’t getting away with it.”

As in any criminal investigation, details matter.

Consider what occurred when Cindy Paulson was at Merrill Field ID’ing Hansen’s plane with an officer from the Anchorage Police Department. While they were observing the plane, a private security guard at the air field approached and told them he had seen someone at 5:14 a.m. that same day.

[The security guard] observed a white male running from that Super Cub to a green vehicle and that he noted the vehicle to have Alaska license number BJZ775. [The guard] also stated that the man was wearing a green coat and cap and that he ran from a wooded area at the rear of the airplane toward the green vehicle. When the man saw [the guard], he slowed his pace to a walk, and entered the green vehicle and drove away.

That license number turned out to be registered to a green Buick, owned by Robert Hansen. There were several people being very observant that day. None better than Cindy Paulson. But she was not alone. Details matter.

Want to learn more about the Robert Hansen murders? Read “Butcher, Baker,” by Walter Gilmour and Leland E. Hale. More here…

Butcher, Baker: Hidden City, Pt. 2

There’s a wonderful bit in the Robert Hansen portion of Hidden City: Anchorage where Marcus brings in professional tracker Ty Cunningham to give a sense of what Hansen’s victims were up against. It’s an extremely powerful segment. Except that the segment was filmed in winter snow. According to Robert Hansen:

“This was a summertime project.”

Since Hansen’s wife was a teacher, and often travelled during the summer, it kind of makes sense, you know? When the cat’s away, and all that… But let’s not take this summertime thing too far. Hansen kidnapped and raped a woman back in 1971, just days before Christmas.

Of course, he also had the good sense to take that victim to a motel.

Bonus: Video Clip: Hidden City Anchorage: Tracks of Terror (tracking in the snow)

What about the chase? It is, after all, a recurring theme in discussions about Robert Hansen. Well, the chase started the minute he first stalked his victims. But in Hansen’s universe, the chase was always (out)balanced by questions of control.

We know that Hansen worried about the intangibles. The known unknowns. The women had to be alone when they reached the rendezvous. Hansen always picked a spot where he could see everything and everyone. Even early on, he used a restraint of some type, eventually graduating to handcuffs. By his own admission, he was obsessive about the mechanical reliability of his car when he kidnapped women. Didn’t want to break down with some woman in handcuffs.

Those control issues extended to the bush. Even in the bush there’s the risk that some hooker can outrun him, even for a little while. She can kick her heels off, right? And, you know, the Alaska bush ain’t no frickin’ island. Those were troubles he just didn’t want. Given all that, it’s my view that he started shooting sooner rather than later.

Loss of control, baby. Not so good. And being “in control” ultimately trumped other considerations. Including the chase. He really, really liked this “game.” Lose control, you lose everything. In fact, there was one who got away. Yeah. She was the one who brought him down.

Quotes from Robert Hansen’s Inconvenient Confession (February 22, 1984)

RH: I only, I only used the airplane three times and maybe if I kept on going like that I would have had a problem… [But] where I have my plane parked there isn’t a lot of people in and out right there and the girl was almost more scared of being in the airplane than she was scared of me…

GF: Scared of being in the airplane. You mention that this area was pretty populated but in the winter time with skis you were somewhat unlimited as to where you could go. Your privacy was pretty much up to you. Or were you concerned about flying a long time? You mention three girls but I’m just wondering, with skis, you know in the winter, you could go just about anywhere.

RH: I could but winter time wasn’t the time to do it. Things were dormant in the winter time. This was a summertime project.

GF = Glenn Flothe
RH = Robert Hansen

Want to learn more about the Robert Hansen murders? Read “Butcher, Baker,” by Walter Gilmour and Leland E. Hale. More here…