Lonesome Death of Beth van Zanten: Hansen Faces Charges

In March of 1972, Robert Hansen went to trial for his Assault with a Deadly Weapon charge against the real estate secretary. In the vagaries of the criminal justice system, the kidnapping, rape and assault with a deadly weapon charges brought against him in the Sandra (Robyn) Patterson case were dropped in return for a no contest plea in the other case.

At his trial, Hansen’s minister — his wife Darla was extremely religous — testified on his behalf, portraying him as a good Christian man who provided an excellent Christian environment for his wife and family. Much was also made of the fact that Robert was a hardworking soul who worked two jobs to provide for his family. The good reverend recommended leniency in the charges against his lost little sheep.

Robert Hansen at his 1972 arrest (courtesy Alaska State Troopers)

Hansen was convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment on the charges involving the real estate secretary, but the judge granted him a Suspended Imposition of Sentence (SIS). By June of 1972, Hansen had been transferred to a halfway house.

“Hansen was back on the prowl, driving the Avenue, whetting his appetite for excitement while still in the Half Way house.” Sgt. Glenn Flothe

Walter Gilmour was having none of it — for all the good it did him. The following excerpt is taken from an early draft of Butcher, Baker.

“I had not been persuaded by the goody two-shoes bullshit of the defense. I could care less that Hansen was a world class bow hunter who owned the record for a Dall’s sheep, even if it did have a fresh bullet mark in the horns. To me, he was just an ugly, pockmarked man who wore glasses and stuttered. To me, he was a clumsy, and therefore dangerous, kidnapper and rapist, who might very well have killed Beth van Zanten. Still, there was a general feeling among the Troopers at the time that Hansen was not our man. He was, so the feeling went, just too wimpy to fit the profile of a killer.

“I can usually take or leave the opinions of psychiatrists, and I only have confidence in their diagnosis when it happens to agree with mine. But after his arrest for the abduction of Sandra (Robyn) Patterson, Hansen was given a psychiatric evaluation by Dr. J. Ray Langdon, and I still find his thoughts illuminating. Dr. Langdon found that Hansen ‘exhibited a compulsive personality structure with thought disorder, perhaps with periodic episodes during which he dissociated in a psychotic rather than neurotic fashion.’ The good doctor concluded that, assuming his diagnosis was correct, Hansen’s mental illness ‘would be very difficult to treat successfully.’

“Langdon also included his evaluation the finding that Hansen ‘in his teens used to fantasize doing all sorts of harmful things to girls.’

“When all the psychiatric gobbledygook was cleared away, it was evident that Dr. Langdon didn’t think much more of Robert Hansen than I did. I thought he was a creepy little shit who was not a prime candidate for redemption. As far as I was concerned, Hansen’s fantasies as a teenager were becoming all too real as an adult. Unfortunately, mine was the minority viewpoint.”

Purchase Butcher, Baker

Order my latest book, “What Happened In Craig,” HERE and HERE, true crime on Epicenter Press.

Lonesome Death of Beth van Zanten: Ron Broughton Returns

After Greg Nicholas pointed the finger at his cousin, troopers gave him the opportunity for a rebuttal or, at least, a reaction. Two days after talking to Greg, they caught up with Ron Broughton. And they confronted him.

INTERVIEW: Ron Broughton, January 7, 1972
“Greg has not been in contact with me. I do not know why he would point the finger at me, although he does many strange things.

“I have no knowledge of Beth or how she was killed. Greg never told me anything concerning Beth. As I stated before, I have no knowledge of the incident or am I involved. I do not believe Greg is involved.

Gilmour: You said you went to the garage. Where did you go after you went to the garage?

Ronnie: From there [the garage] we either went straight to the Montana Club or to Beth’s house. But we were together.

Gilmour: Were you together the whole time at the Montana Club?

Ronnie: No. I walked back and gave Greg a 10 dollar bill and told him I was going to the Alley Cat and cash a check.

The inconsistencies are rife here, even in this short exchange. Consider this one: Ronnie claims he gave Greg a 10 dollar bill. On December 26, Greg told troopers the following: “Ronnie did not have any money. I gave him $20.00.”

More than once, Ronnie testifies differently. Specifically, he twice refers to cashing an Alaska Scallop Fleet check at the Alley Cat bar. Yes, he had money. Hard earned money. Scallop fishing money.

The typical day of scallop fishermen begins with the sound of dredges being hauled, as scallop vessels operate around the clock, making 15 to 21 dredge tows daily. The crew brings the dredge aboard and empties its contents onto the deck where they collect scallop “keepers.”


It is possible, of course, that the subtlety of meaning has gone missing in these exchanges. Perhaps Greg meant that Ronnie didn’t have any cash, hence the need to front him some money. But that interpretation strains credibility. As in all things with this case, it devolved into inconclusiveness within inconclusiveness. Gilmour was nearing the end of the string, in more ways than one.

Purchase Butcher, Baker

Order my latest book, “What Happened In Craig,” HERE and HERE, true crime on Epicenter Press.

Life With Robert Hansen: Judge Moody Decides

Judge Ralph Moody had a difficult task before him. He stood at the apex of a system that had failed miserably and now had responsiblity for explaining how it happened. Before he took that step, however, Moody gave Robert Hansen one more chance to explain himself.

Judge Ralph E. Moody

THE COURT: Mr. Hansen, you may stand. Do you have anything to say before the court pronounces judgment?

MR. HANSEN: No, sir, I don’t.

THE COURT: Well, it’s hard to believe that humanity produces and sustains people who have the ability and propensity to commit such enormous, such beastly, such undescribable crimes. […] What we have seen here today and what the defendant has admitted to in many respects is a condemnation of society as a whole…

“We have let down not only the victims, but many of our compatriots here in court, here in Alaska. The court system has failed. Knowing that he was a problem, probation officers, police officers, members of society themselves who would not come forward, I can’t think of a bigger indictment of society than this. […]

“We say he paid his debt to society when we give him sentencing, depend on psychiatrists — and here again, we’ve got doctors and psychiatrists are in this indictment, too, as well as all of you know, I’m sure, we’re involved. I’m a judge and a lawyer, and so I place myself in the collective pot for criticism. […]

“In these cases, he took people who could least protect themselves, people from the standpoint of the lower point of society, but from the standpoint of the man were angels compared to what he has done. There just isn’t much you can say of what happened here, of what this man has admitted to, of what he has placed upon society, and what society has to a great extent allowed to occur.

“I hope when we leave this courtroom today that I have to the best of my ability provided this man shall never walk the streets of America or any other place as a free man.”

Judge Moody ultimately gave Hansen the maximum sentence on each count, noting that, “Sir, I have to consider you the worst offender in all respects in all these charges against you.”

Moody gave Frank Rothschild and the district attorney’s office everything they asked for. He sentenced Robert Hansen to 461 years, plus life.

“The night the Hansen conviction came in, Glenn Flothe held a quiet celebration at one of Anchorage’s finest restaurants. It would cost him three hundred dollars but it was worth every penny. His wife Cherry was with him. Cindy Paulson was with him. And so were the two women who watched over Cindy after she decided it was time to come in off the streets.

“It was a gathering interwoven with emotion. Everyone spoke nervously, but with evident relief. Everyone except Cindy, who was subdued, pensive and somewhat withdrawn through much of the evening. She was emotionally drained.

Cindy Paulson

“Flothe hoped Cindy had learned something from her experience. At dinner, she looked scared straight, ready to trade her life on the streets for life in a Christian home. Flothe resolved to do everything he could to help her stay on the right path. He promised himself not to let her down, now that her “usefulness” to the criminal justice system had been fulfilled. It wasn’t long, however, before this sensitive young woman was back on the streets. That’s where her friends were. That was her life.”

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

In the years since Robert Hansen’s conviction, Cindy Paulson’s life took another turn, one for the better. She married. Had kids. And, given the chance by the filmmakers for “The Frozen Ground,” she not only told her story, she owned it.

Purchase Butcher, Baker

Life With Robert Hansen: We Ask the Court

This is obvious but… at a sentencing hearing, the prosecution recommends the punishment that should be doled out by the court. Often, there have been a series of negotiations with the defense as to the best course, so that all sides agree on the outcome. Sometimes, of course, the two sides can’t reach an agreement; then it’s entirely up to the court.

And then there’s the sentencing of Robert C. Hansen.

Judge Ralph E. Moody

Anchorage, Alaska
February 27, 1984
3:05 o’clock p.m.

MR. ROTHSCHILD: “As far as the actual sentencing, Your Honor, on the charges that were just filed today by information, three [of them] call for up to 99 year terms, those are Counts II, III and IV. We ask that the court find him to be not only a worst offender but the worst offender, that he be given 99 years without the possibility of parole and that they all be consecutive to one another.

“Regarding the charges filed against him last year, this is his fourth felony under our presumptive sentencing scheme. He also would obviously be subject to aggravators because in his rape he used a gun, repetitive assaultive conduct, three or more priors, history of the same kind of conduct.

“As to the sexual assault count, we ask that he be given the maximum of 30 years. As to the kidnapping count we ask that he be given the maximum of 99 years, to run consecutive as allowed by Alaska law, and to run consecutive to the murder counts.

“For the three counts of misconduct involving weapons, where he was a felon in possession, we ask that he be given the maximum for each of three years, that they be consecutive to one another and consecutive to all other sentences. We ask as to both theft — the 2 different theft indictments — that he be given five years, the maximum on each, that the be consecutive to each other and consecutive to all other charges.

“That, Your Honor, totals 461 years by my reckoning.

“We have one count left and that’s Count I of the information. We ask on that, the court having the power to sentence him from 20 years to life, that he be given life without eligibility for parole and that be made consecutive to the others.

“For those people that he has slain, for those lucky enough to have survived, for all of us, Your Honor, we ask that you rid us of this beastly man forever.”

THE COURT: Counsel want a recess?

MR. DEWEY: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: You may proceed.

MR. DEWEY: Your Honor, it’s my client’s wish and desire that nothing further be said on his behalf at this proceeding by his counsel. And that concludes my remarks. (1)

(1) I have posted Mr. Dewey’s remarks before; each time I read them I’m struck by their sense of helplessness. Here is an attorney, engaged to represent his client at the most crucial point in his life, and he’s rendered mute. And then I think… Maybe Dewey is grateful that he didn’t have to rise to Robert Hansen’s defense. So maybe there’s relief, too.

Purchase Butcher, Baker

Life With Robert Hansen: Can He Be Rehabilitated?

Criminal sentencing in the U.S. usually comes down to a combination of three factors, in greater or lesser proportion. First there’s good, old-fashioned Old Testament punishment: “breach for breach, eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth.” Second, there is deterence — the notion that severe punishment will give future perpetrators pause. Finally, there is the notion of the offender being rehabilitated — the sentence should lead him to “go and sin no more,” which is decidedly more New Testament in origin.

All three of these options were in play at Robert Hansen’s sentencing. Here’s Assistant D.A. Frank Rothschild addressing those topics.

“So we have to ask ourselves, can he be rehabilitated? We know that’s a joke, that has failed, there’s no way, it’s too late.

“Will this deter others? People like this aren’t going to get deterred, not that have the kind of problems this man has.

Cindy Paulson Interview w/ Sgt. Glenn Flothe, AST

“We can sure isolate him and we can sure tell all the people in our community and reaffirm their value system, that this man will never see the light of day again. We can’t put him to death (1). But truly that would be too easy for this man, Your Honor. It’s really what he’d prefer at this point. He said to us on Friday, I’m going to die in prison anyway (2), as a matter of fact it probably would be better for me if I die quick.

“This man who loves the outdoors, he’s never going to smell the freshness of a mountain meadow. He’ll never hear water trickle again down a creek, he’ll never thrill in seeing our great wilderness and our wild animals that roam there.


“He truly hates being locked up. It’s better that we lock him up and make him live with this for each breath that he takes for the rest of his life. He’s asked that we recommend and we strongly recommend that he be sent to the federal prison system. Was ask the court to make that recommendation.

“He’s asked for psychiatric counseling. We agree if for no other reason than to try to make him aware of what a monster he is.”

Robert Hansen’s Alibi Pitch

(1) Alaska does not have a death penalty.
(2) Hansen died in prison after 30 years in a variety of penal institutions.

Purchase Butcher, Baker

Life with Robert Hansen: There Seems to Be More

The “why” answer discussed in our previous post is a long one. And in all likelihood incomplete. Even Assistant D.A., after answering that question, had to say, “but there seems to be more.” Yes, there does seem to be more. There seems to be a lot more. Here we glide from cause to effect; once his killing spree started, Hansen seems to have created an elaborate and deadly set of reinforcing behaviors. One thrill begat the next one.

Trophies at Hansen’s house (Alaska State Troopers)

“This hunter who kept trophies on the wall had a world record.

Hansen with his World Record Dall’s Sheep

“Well, he now has trophies scattered throughout southcentral Alaska. He put his little notches on the map. And isn’t it interesting that two of his maps were found in his bedboard behind his bed. You can just see him when he has a moment to himself, pulling them out and looking at the little X’s on the map, of women he’d killed and buried.

Hansen Map (detail)

“He admits to there being at least 20 to 30 women where everything went okay and he dropped them back off on the streets. We fear there were many more; we don’t really believe for a minute that he’s told us the full story. He is a compulsive liar. He gives us what he knows he has to give up — give us [that] and no more.

“It’s a game you see, Your Honor, it’s a game with authority, it’s a game with police, it’s trying to outfox, it’s the big thrill.

“And his family? Well, from back in ’62 on [when he was arrested for arson in Iowa], he always talked about his family. Oh, I care so much for my family, I’m so worried about how this will affect them.

“That’s a fiction.

“His family was a prop so he could hide behind decency, to show I’m a family man. And he’s a baker and he makes money and it’s just all part of the game.”

“Now there are, Your Honor, 13 bodies still out there to find.”

Purchase Butcher, Baker

Life with Robert Hansen: So Then We Ask Why

“So then we ask why,” Assistant D.A. Frank Rothschild said as he addressed Judge Moody. “Why did he do all this?”

It’s the question everyone asks. These days there seems to be but one answer to such questions. It’s mental health, they insist. These people are crazy. Frank Rothschild did not take that approach; even if it was the easy way out.

“He said he was frustrated as a kid, his friends had to have all the fun, they got the girls and he didn’t,” Rothschild said. “He had acne, he stuttered, people made jokes of him, talked about hiding, going under the bed, not coming out for a day.”


“And he said this is the reason; he wanted to feel wanted and you can’t feel wanted in a motel room. He called that too commercial. He didn’t like this slam, bam, do it again [sic], m’am stuff. He didn’t like this quick stuff.

“He wanted them under his control as long as he wanted and he tried hard to convince himself, he says, that they wanted to be with him too, that it wasn’t bought sex, that they really wanted to be with him.

“He said, I wanted to control things. It made me feel masculine or powerful or in control of my life, that he got into it for his own ego. Maybe this quote sums it all up:

“He said, I was just seeing everybody else got theirs, then it’s my turn to have fun now.”

There were other “why’s.”


Bob’s domineering, old-country dad, who constantly belittled him — and exploited his labor — even as he praised Bob’s older sister, who didn’t seem able to do anything wrong. A mother who was incapable of defending him. The attempts to fit in, that didn’t quite work (like joining the high school football team or the Junior Police; after all of that, they still misspelled his name in the high school yearbook).

His learning disabilities (which his second wife, Darla, tried to fix but couldn’t). His whore-madonna complex. His resentment of authority, shown in full-color when he burned the bus barn in Pocahontas, Iowa.

And, yes, his mental illness, for which the professionals seemed to have too many names. Schizophrenia. Obsessive-compulsive. Manic depression (now more commonly called bipolar).

So there you have it. No easy answers.

Purchase Butcher, Baker

Robert Hansen’s Fantasies: Sunday Singles (Audio)

Listen to Robert Hansen at his most amoral. Hear him casually encourage his wife and kids to tour Europe for an entire summer, so that he can arrange “dates” through a singles service. Hear him confess to planning this more than a year in advance. This is Robert Hansen at his most manipulative.

He had somehow gotten the idea that he wanted to find someone for the summer. Someone he could be close to, someone who wasn’t a prostitute. If he could be with her at his home, he reasoned, maybe things wouldn’t go wrong — as they had so many times before, when he picked up women on the street. This would be different.

And then, after that, if things went well… who knows?

Four weeks before Darla left for Europe, Robert Hansen twice put an ad in the Anchorage Daily News, which at the time ran the singles column called “Sunday Singles.” Here’s Robert Hansen’s ad:

“Adventurous male, 42, 5-11, 165 pounds, looking for a lady proud to be a woman, to share sincere, honest attachment. Must like to dance and enjoy social life. Willing to put on jeans. Join me in finding what’s around the next bend, over the next hill. Enjoy flying own plane, beachcombing, fishing, camping. Life is much fuller if shared. Send recent photo.”

Audio: Robert Hansen talks about his Sunday Singles ad during his confession.


On June 8, 1983, one of the women who answered his ad came to his house. She was, it turned out, an employee of the Alaska State Troopers. He took her to the basement. Showed her the stuffed animals on the walls, the hunting trophies he was so proud of. He hoped to have sex with her on the bear rug. She turned him down. It was a first date. She wasn’t that kind of woman.

As Frank Rothschild recounted during Hansen’s sentencing, “It was five days later that he picked up [Cindy Paulson]. Five days later that he put her in handcuffs, took her down to the basement, chained her and put her on that same bear rug.”

Purchase Butcher, Baker