Murder on Knik River Rd: What Erick Almandinger Knows

Erick Almandinger was, ultimately, at the center of a universe that slowly but surely got out of control. It was Erick who played ringmaster to a diverse — and eventually antagonistic — group of friends. Unlike David Grunwald, Erick was only a sometime-student; he preferred to drink and smoke dope and party with friends. He’d spent the better part of his previous summer at nearby “trap houses,” doing drugs.

Some of his friends were chronically homeless, periodically involved in criminal activities and, perhaps most incongruously, trying to emulate the L.A.-based gang known as the Crips. In their adolescent fantasy world, it seemed to matter little that the Crips were black — and Erick’s friends were mostly white. The following represents a parallel timeline, one that overlaps and ultimately overtakes Victoria Mokelke’s timeline.


Erick Almandinger at his 2016 Arraignment (Age 16)

November 13, 2016
6:00 p.m.: David Evans arrives at Erick Almandinger’s house, dropped off by David Grunwald. Evans has been living at the Almandinger’s, but after staying elsewhere for a week, needs to reestablish his permission to live there. Rodney Almandinger tells Evans that, due to his leaving the house without communicating with anyone, he has to move out. But Rodney adds that Evans should “ask Gramma,” Rodney’s mother, because she ultimately rules the roost.

Approximately 6:00 p.m.: Christian Ward, who lives across the street from the Almandinger’s, has dropped by to watch movies with Erick Almandinger and is at the residence during “an argument” between Rodney Almandinger and David Evans. Growing uncomfortable, he goes to the garage to say goodbye to Erick. The lights are off, but he sees “3 or 4 kids in there.” That the lights are off tells Ward that “something was weird.”

Approximately 6:10 p.m.: David Evans, accompanied by Erick Almandinger, asks Gramma (Myler Almandinger) if he (Evans) can move back into the house. After a passionate discussion, Gramma says “no.”

6:22 p.m.: Erick’s friend Dominic Johnson messages Erick. “We’re at the camper” (which is parked at the Almandinger residence). Johnson is one of the “3 or 4 kids” that Christian Ward “saw” in the Almandinger garage.

Erick
Almandinger Trailer at Alaska State Troopers evidence facility

Approximately 6:30 p.m.: David Evans, who arrived with a single daypack, goes downstairs to pack the rest of his belongings into plastic garbage sacks. Having not showered for a week, he also takes a long shower at the Almandinger’s. He later testifies that he did not see Grunwald after he was dropped off at the Almandinger residence (at 6:00 p.m.).

6:40 p.m.: David Grunwald arrives at the Almendinger’s residence on Esty Drive in Palmer.

7:07 p.m.: David shares an Instagram conversation with Angela Dicus, telling her he is “smoking a J.”

Approximately 8:00 p.m.: Rodney Almandinger sees David Evans and his son Erick with plates of food.

8:09 p.m.: Dominic Johnson messages Erick, asking to “borrow a toolie,” a reference to Erick’s .40 Ruger pistol. Johnson, who is 6 feet, 3 inches and 250 pounds, intends to pistol-whip Grunwald with the weapon because he “doesn’t like” him.

Erick
Dominic Johnson in jail scrubs after his arrest

8:10 p.m.: David Grunwald messages Angela Dicus using Snapchat.

8:16 p.m.: Dominic Johnson again messages Erick Almandinger, this time with more urgency, saying “I gotta act fast like (right now) fast you feel me.” Erick eventually complies, handing his .40 Ruger to Johnson through the door of the camper. Johnson and a second friend, Austin Barrett, begin to pistol-whip David Grunwald. Erick Almandinger soon enters the camper to join them.

8:35 p.m.: Last cell data ping from David Grunwald’s phone, near Palmer.

After deciding that David Grunwald “knows too much,” he is taken into the woods off Knik River Rd and killed with a single shot from a 9mm Ruger.

9:43 p.m.: Per cell tower ping, Dominic Johnson’s phone is in the Butte area, southeast of Palmer. Later that evening, accomplices Erick Almandinger, Dominic Johnson, Austin Barrett and Bradley Renfro go to friend Devin Peterson’s house, ostensibly to ask Devin to ditch their weapons after murdering David Grunwald. Peterson calls them “stupid fucks,” but takes the weapons.

9:48 p.m.: David Evans is picked up by his brother and leaves the Almandinger residence.

9:55 p.m.: Victoria Mokelke, who knows Erick Almandinger from their days at Colony High school, starts messaging Erick.

10:20 p.m.: Rodney Almandinger starts messaging Erick. By 10:50 p.m., he has been contacted by David Grunwald’s parents and knows David is missing.

11:37 p.m.: Erick Almandinger responds to Victoria. He lies to her, claiming “Im not home I’m at a friends house in anchorage drunk as fuck.”

Erick
Erick & Victoria (Facebook Messenger)

12:12 a.m., November 14, 2016: Erick Almandinger finally responds to his father.

Erick

Arrest of Robert Hansen: Last Gasp

Although there would be additional attempts to identify bodies, June 1984 marked the last gasp in the contemporaneous search for Hansen’s gravesites. Given that Hansen’s first known murders occurred in the early ’70’s, each passing year meant trace evidence grew thinner. Even spots where there was a match between Hansen’s aviation map and his on-site ID’s, the prospect loomed large that wild animals or humans had disturbed, or even removed, portions of those remains.

It’s telling that the last entry in Sgt. Flothe’s memorialization waivered between positive and negative. Even with the help of a dog, his search for remains at Hansen gravesite #7 were initially written up as “negative.” And then the “negative” was mysteriously crossed out. In other words, it read exactly like a last gasp entry:

Last Gasp

Last Gasp
Trooper Cadet Ray Jennings Searches Along the Knik 1984 (courtesy Anchorage Times)

For the record, Flothe’s detailed matrix ultimately identified Gravesite #7, “adjacent to Goulding grave,” with a blank entry denoting negative results.

Last Gasp
Sgt. Flothe’s Victim Matrix (excerpt)


Thirty years later, authorities would exhume the body of an unidentified victim, hoping that new science would unpack her identity. Some speculated this victim, who was nicknamed “Horseshoe Harriet” because her body was found near Horseshoe Lake, was actually Andrea Altiery.

In 1984, however, Sgt. Flothe had identified this woman differently, saying it was “Tentative Delynn Frey.” Frey, whose dancing name was “Sugar,” was 20 at the time of her disappearance in March 1983. Angela Feddern had disappeared in February 1983 and was found near Figure 8 Lake, just due west of Horseshoe Lake. That seemed to link them in time as well as space, which appeared to make DeLynn Frey the more likely answer.

At this writing, however, the identity of Horseshoe Harriet is still unconfirmed.

Last Gasp
DeLynn Frey (courtesy Alaska State Troopers)

Last Gasp
Horseshoe Lake (Google Maps, illustration by Leland E. Hale)


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Arrest of Robert Hansen: Fish Necklace

Andrea Altiery was originally from Hawaii, the daughter of a prominent local family. She made her way to Anchorage in the early eighties, seeking the elusive fortune of exotic dancing. Maybe she had Rock Fever, that sometimes disorienting disease borne of being stuck on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. At any rate, after moving to Alaska one thing led to another. Somehow, she got entangled with Bob Hansen, likely on another “photo session” that promised hundreds of dollars. That Hansen killed her was certain. Her fish necklace was found among the mementoes in his attic.

There was no mistaking that necklace. It was gold and custom-made. It was one of Andrea’s prized possessions. No way would she have voluntarily gifted it to Bob Hansen.

Fish Necklace
Andrea Altiery’s Fish Necklace (photo courtesy Alaska State Troopers)

No. Bob Hansen stole that necklace after he killed Andrea Altiery. Stole it and hid it in his attic, among his other mementoes. Neither Mona Altiery nor her semi-famous father would ever learn more about their daughter.


NOTE: 10-21 = Call by Phone

Fish Necklace


Fish Necklace
Andrea “Andra” Altiery (courtesy Alaska State Troopers)


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Arrest of Robert Hansen: Resurrection Bay

There is no special consideration for Bob Hansen’s “most despicable” crimes. They were all variations of bad to worst. That’s how it rolls when you’re dealing with a serial killer. But the name “Resurrection Bay” always looms as a cruel reminder that even irony went missing with Robert Chris Hansen.

Resurrection Bay brings us Mary Thill and Megan Emerick, whose probable murders stand out as particularly callous deeds in a career defined by callousness.

As Sgt. Flothe had learned, Robert Hansen was loathe to confess to any murders that didn’t involve prostitutes. In Hansen’s world, prostitutes were “lower” than him and ready-made victims. But Hansen claimed that a woman who was not a prostitute was someone he “put on a pedestal.” Denying that he killed Mary and Megan seemed to be the only way Hansen could deal with the cognitive dissonance erupting from his murder of innocents. For Megan and Mary, that meant that theirs would always be a watery grave, deep in Davy Jones’ locker, with no hope of recovery (1).


NOTE: 10-21 = Call by Phone

Handwritten

Resurrection
Mary Thill (courtesy Alaska State Troopers)

Resurrection
Megan Emerick (courtesy Alaska State Troopers)


(1) I was contacted by a TV producer some years ago who wanted to mount a sniffer dog search for Mary and Megan. Maybe I’m missing something in the imagination department, but that was one of the most far-fetched things I’ve ever heard. I dunno. Give ’em credit. Maybe they had super-underwater-dogs from outer space.


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Arrest of Robert Hansen: Bring in the Cat

5/14/84
As May moved along, the ground started to yield and the days grew longer. It was then that troopers brought in heavy equipment to assist in the search for bodies. It represented a kind of desperation: there is nothing particularly delicate about a Cat, although a skilled operator with a deft touch can come awfully close to turning a Cat excavator into a precision tool.

And yet, even with the heavy lifters, the Knik refused to give up all its secrets.

Cat


Cat
Detail: Hansen’s Map – Knik River Sites (courtesy Alaska State Troopers)


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Arrest of Robert Hansen: Clustered Graves in the Killing Fields

That Robert Hansen would go back to the same spots along the Knik River, and leave bodies clustered there, says something about him, though I’m not entirely sure what. Was he lazy? Panicked? Careless? Or did the clustered bodies speak instead to his ritual obsessions, so that it was easier for him to revisit the gravesites and re-live the murders at his leisure? Certainly the clustered gravesites made it easier on the cops when it came time to recover them, but that likely was the last thing on Bob Hansen’s mind.

Meanwhile, the contents of a paper bag found near the clustered remains revealed the intimate details of someone who would otherwise remain unidentified. She’d been wearing a dress jacket, Levi’s and nylon stockings; even her shoes were in that improvised tote bag. She had also carried a purse with makeup and an injection kit: Bic lighter, spoon and hypodermic needle. The injection kit told troopers she was cooking drugs. That was the sign of a junkie.

And the Buck hunting knife? Possibly a contributing factor in her death. Had she flashed it at Hansen, he surely would have killed her. Not that it mattered much either way. He probably killed her anyway.


Handwritten


Clustered


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Arrest of Robert Hansen: When Human Rituals Go Missing

Humans have developed elaborate rituals surrounding the key turning points of our all-too-brief lives. The “baby shower” for the mother-to-be. The “christening,” and the “bris,” for the newborn. The First Communion and the Bar-Bat Mitzvah for coming of age. The “Wedding,” yes, that one too, for it brings the expectation of a new human (maybe more). And, of course, the funeral, the final rites, the easing of the once living into the next orbit. There are many ways to do them, but each ritual is rooted in the same need.

At each of these rituals, we are joined to the great arc of our forbearers, our family, our community. These are joining’s, not leaving’s; even at the ultimate moment, when our lives are memorialized in the funeral ritual, we are remembered through the presence of those who will go on living, until they too meet this day.

These rituals are what people refer to when they speak of “closure.” The rings cannot be closed without them. At death we want the rituals.

Not this:

“Body located w/ head in northerly direction in the embankment under six inches of leaves and soil and under a log, on its back.”


Handwritten

Rituals
Lisa Futrell

NOTE: Beginning in May of 1984, when troopers began searching Hansen’s grave sites in earnest, Sgt. Flothe abandoned his typed diary and started making handwritten entries. The first of these is presented here.


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Arrest of Robert Hansen: A Grieving Stepfather

I met Tamara Pederson’s stepfather on the set of the Sally Jessy Raphael show in November, 1991. He seethed with anger that the Troopers had not solved the Hansen murders sooner. He had a point. If they’d taken Hansen in the early ’70’s there was a chance that Tammy, as she was known, would still be alive. A chance.

In a telling exchange, an audience member asked Pederson how he could blame the police, because “you knew she was in a dangerous profession.” Tamara’s stepfather glared, but had no answer.


4/29/84: AL MOREAU, off duty Palmer Police Officer discovers bone and material protruding from ground near gravesite #6 across river from MORROW gravesite. Reports discovery to AST. Sergeant STOGSDILL and Lieutenant KASNICK removed body from grave. Body taken to Forest Lawn Mortuary.

4/30/84: Doctor ROGERS performed autopsy on found body. Subject shot twice with large calibre copper jacket recovered.

The weapon that Hansen likely used here was his Thompson Contender, a large calibre pistol that was as deadly as it looked.

Stepfather
Thompson Center Arms Contender (7mm, single shot)

5/1/84: Positive ID found body #6 from grave site #6 as TAMARA PEDERSON from dental X-rays. ID performed by Doctor Rogers.

Stepfather
Tamara Pederson (courtesy Alaska State Troopers)

5/2/84: Met with VIGORENS and later Mr. PEDERSON reference TAMARA PEDERSON.

5/3/84: Met with Mr. PEDERSON, TAMARA’s adopted stepfather. Transported him to TAMARA’s grave site per his request. Also used Alyeska’s infared heat detecting video camera to help locate bodies at grave sites #1 and #3 with negative results.


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Arrest of Robert Hansen: Sue Luna Identified

Nearly two years had passed since Sue Luna’s disappearance. The only way to identify her was through dental records. Sgt. Flothe remembered her well: she was one of the first ones he’d called out on his victim matrix. He now knew that Hansen had not only killed her, but taken back the $300.00 he’d paid for an hour of sex. That post-mortem theft was not only the definition of cheap, but of cold-blooded.


4/27/84: Body removed from grave site #2 east of Knik River bridge positively identified as SUE LUNA. LUNA identified from dental records by Doctor ROGERS. ROBERTA MOOREHEAD, [her] sister, reported her missing to the Anchorage Police Department on 5/30/82. S[he] was to meet an unidentified male at Alice’s 210 Cafe for $300.00.

Sue
Sue Luna (courtesy Alaska State Troopers)


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Arrest of Robert Hansen: Angie

Known by almost everyone as “Angie,” Angela Feddern was a troubled soul. Her sister in Seattle knew that she was into drugs, and turning tricks to support her habit. She reached out. She tried to help. So did her mother. They both failed.

In Seattle Angie’s mother, Mary Radford, soon learned that her daughter’s body had been found. “I was prepared for it,” she told the Associated Press. “I knew something was wrong when she stopped calling last year. In a way, there’s some relief. You wonder what happened to them until you know for sure.”

Asked what she thought of Hansen’s plea-bargained sentence, Mrs. Radford turned bitter. “I don’t see why he should be alive and they dead,” she said.

Mrs. Radford also acknowledged that her daughter chose to be a prostitute, knowing it was a rough life. “That was the life she chose,” she said. “Angie just couldn’t find it in herself to go out and get a thinking job. She did the best she could.”

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

Angie
Angela “Angie” Feddern (courtesy Alaska State Troopers)

4/26/84: Sergeant FLOTHE, Trooper VonCLASEN and helicopter pilot fly to Figure 8 Lake, grave site #ll. Figure 8 Lake is west of the Susitna River. Body located lying on the ground beneath flag placed by HANSEN. Some clothing and bone protruding from frozen ground. Unable to dig out pants without destroying evidence. Must wait for thaw. Jaw bone found lying on top of ground near pants with dental work. Jawbone removed, transported back to Anchorage.

Angie
Figure 8 Lake (Google Maps; illustration by Leland E. Hale)

Sergeant FLOTHE, Trooper VonCLASEN and helicopter pilot fly to Scenic Lake grave site #13 on Kenai Peninsula. Body left by HANSEN lying on top of ground covered with some brush. Clothing (red blouse) and small rib bone found in location pointed out by HANSEN. “Bear sign” noted around body. Ground frozen. Looked for purse, still ice along edge of lake where purse is allegedly located. Need to return in a week or two to allow for sufficient ground thaw. Seized bone and torn red womans blouse.

Returned to Anchorage with jawbone from Figure 8 Lake. Compared with known dental records on file. Positive ID from dental X-rays as ANGELA FEDDERN, missing from Anchorage approximately February 1983. Reported missing to APD Officer P.C. CANADY by JOE MAJORS, owner/operator of Murphy’s Law, a bar featuring nude female dancers. No official APD report filed. Information passed on to Troopers. FEDDERN was working as an avenue prostitute and allegedly had a date with a doctor when she disappeared.


Purchase Butcher, Baker