The Lonesome Death of Beth van Zanten: Informant Interview

After Sgt. Gilmour’s initial interview of Sandra Patterson, the case was turned over to Sgt. Don Hughes for further investigation. Gilmour learned that trooper brass thought Hughes was more by-the-book and had a better relationship with the D.A.’s office. They were also wary of Gilmour; they had convinced themselves that he was pushing too hard. What they hadn’t counted on was a case that would grow so many disparate threads.

What follows are excerpts from Hughes’ Investigative Report.

“On 12/26/71, SANDRA PATTERSON came to Alaska State Trooper Headquarters, along with her father, J. PATTERSON, to register a complaint of abduction, ADW [Assault with Deadly Weapon] and rape.

Miss PATTERSON reported that she had been accosted at gunpoint at a local cafe in the early morning hours of 12/19/71 and forcibly taken to the Kenai Lake area by a white suspect. Suspect bound victim’s hands and feet. After raping her and threatening her life and voicing threats against the victim’s parents and her small child, he brought the victim back to Anchorage.”

Investigative Report, Sgt. D.W. Hughes, 12/28/1971

SANDRA PATTERSON was interviewed on 12/27/71, at 2:00 p.m. at the Alaska State Trooper Headquarters.

“In the preliminary discussion of this case, Miss PATTERSON indicated that the reason she had not reported this incident is because she was fearful of harm to herself, her child and/or her parents because of the threats the subject had made to her. After talking to Miss PATTERSON she stated she would register a complaint.

“Miss PATTERSON was shown five black and white head and shoulder photos, which included pictures of DONALD S N., DAVID J R., WILLIAM JOSEPH H., CHARLES E S., and ROBERT CHRIS HANSEN. All of these individuals wore horn-rim glasses and were in the same general age group. Upon viewing these photos in a group, she immediately, with no hesitation pointed to the photo of ROBERT C. HANSEN and stated very definitely, “that’s him.”


“Later, during the interview, a book of colored photos was secured from Anchorage City Police Department containing sixty colored photos of individuals, some in line-ups and some individual photos. Miss PATTERSON looked through this book and on the last page she excitedly pointed to the photo of ROBERT C. HANSEN. She then stated that there was no question about this being the man that had picked her up.”

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