Murder on Knik River Rd

When I read that David Grunwald was murdered on Knik River Rd, I instinctively harkened back to Robert Hansen. This was, after all, in or near one of Robert Hansen’s primary killing fields. Further research brought several important revelations.

First, Grunwald was killed on the south side of the river, about 7 miles due east of the Old Knik River bridge. So, not in Hansen’s Knik River killing field, but too damned close. Second, law enforcement painted the murder as one where a good kid got mixed up with some bad kids. And this is where the story became profoundly disorienting: 4 white teens, who identified with the Crips gang, of all things, had killed Grunwald execution-style and then torched his car. Let that sink in.

White kids. Crips. Alaska. Alaska?

Knik River Rd


David Grunwald, 16, went missing on November 13, 2016. He dropped off his girlfriend near the Butte, Alaska, in the Mat-Su Valley, early that evening. His parents started to worry about him when he didn’t return home by about 9:30 p.m. Relatives, friends and helpful strangers mounted a concerted search, with few initial leads, for a home-schooled teen described as punctual and responsible.

Knik River Rd
David Grunwald (courtesy Anchorage Daily News; photo Edith Grunwald)

Troopers found Grunwald’s 1995 Ford Bronco around noon the next day, burned to the metal and up a dirt track at the base of the Talkeetna Mountains north of Wasilla.

Knik River Rd
David Grunwald’s 1995 Bronco (courtesy KTVA-TV)

That was about 21 miles from the house on Smith Road where David dropped off his girlfriend, according to a route search by his father, Ben. Also, at least one cellphone “ping” from David’s phone was tracked to a tower near Palmer in the hours after he went missing.

In early December of 2016, four teens were arrested and charged as adults in David’s murder, after one of them directed troopers to his body, near Knik River Rd, south of the Butte, Alaska. According to trooper interviews, 16-year-old suspect Erick Almandinger said Grunwald came to his house on Esty Drive in Palmer on Nov. 13 “to drink and smoke [pot]” in a camper trailer in the yard.

At one point, Almandinger told troopers he left the trailer and went into the house. He said a friend, identified only as “D.J.” in the charging document, messaged him and asked him to bring a gun back to the trailer.

“Almandinger said he brought a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun to the trailer and handed it to D.J., at which time D.J. bludgeoned D.G. with the pistol,” Trooper Sgt. Wegrzyn wrote in the affidavit.

Almandinger alleged that the other teen loaded Grunwald into the Bronco and they drove to the Butte, according to the affidavit. On the way, Grunwald was going in and out of consciousness and unable to defend himself, the affidavit said; during moments of semi-lucidity, he asked to be taken to his girlfriend’s house in the Butte, but his kidnappers bypassed her road and kept going.

Ten minutes later they pulled over on Knik River Rd and walked into the woods with Grunwald.

Knik River Rd
MAP: David Grunwald’s Disappearance (courtesy Anchorage Dispatch News; Hansen overlay Leland E. Hale)

“Almandinger admitted he went with D.J. as they escorted D.G. into the woods and acknowledged that D.G. was pleading for his life as they walked,” the investigator wrote.

Almandinger said D.J. killed Grunwald, according to the affidavit. He later changed his story and identified the shooter as another 16-year-old, identified in charging documents only as “A.B.”

Almandinger said he decided to destroy the evidence, and told troopers that the pair got some gasoline and drove the Bronco up a 4-wheeler trail off Sitze Road, and burned it.

They later tried to destroy the bloody evidence in the camper by burning a carpet and applying bleach to its bloodied interior. Almandinger said he then stayed in a friend’s shed for several days.

Wegrzyn wrote that it was when he contacted D.J. on Friday, December 2, 2016, that he was led to where Grunwald was killed — but only after the teen consulted with an attorney. Another investigator found a single 9mm shell casing at the murder scene.

Almandinger showed little remorse during the interrogation, Wegrzyn said. The only motive cited by Almandinger was that Grunwald “had smoked all his weed,” the sergeant wrote. “He said they didn’t get any money.”

As it turned out, Almandinger wasn’t telling troopers everything he knew.

Credit: Zaz Hollander, Anchorage Daily News, “Documents shed new light on slain Palmer teen’s final moments,” published December 5, 2016.

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: 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: 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

Arrest of Robert Hansen: 3 Rings & Gold Nugget Necklace

The truth was bound to hit Darla Hansen at some point. April 25, 1984, was one of those days. The day she found three rings and a gold nugget necklace in her house. She knew they weren’t hers. Which meant that they belonged to another woman. Or other women. Bob’s women. Bob’s dead women. Note, too, Glen Flothe’s precision in marking the handover. 4:10 p.m. had to be an awkward encounter.

Rings
Rings found among Hansen’s mementoes (modeled by AST employees)

Troopers searching for bodies, meanwhile, continued their fight with Mother Nature; the ground was still frozen 8 to 10 inches down. They would soon learn that Darla’s husband didn’t bother to dig deep graves for his victims. He didn’t have time for that. Sometimes, he didn’t bother with graves at all. In his haste, he simply left them where they fell. And here, his lack of respect had a silver lining. Bodies left on the ground were easier to find.

Rings
Knik Graves: Depth Measure (courtesy Alaska Times)


4/25/84: Sergeant FLOTHE, Lieutenant KASNICK, Trooper VonCLASEN, Sergeant HAUGSVEN search grave site #3, parking area Old Kink River Bridge. Ground frozen 8 to 10 inches down. Return later.

Trooper VonCLASEN, Sergeant HAUGSVEN check grave site #8, island south of GOULDING’s body in sandbar, negative. Not sure of exact location easy digging. Use 4X4 pickup and helicopter.

Sergeant FLOTHE, Lieutenant KASNICK check grave site #7. Grave site adjacent to GOULDING. Ground still frozen 8 to 10 inches deep. Not sure of exact location, will return. Used helicopter.

Sergeant FLOTHE, Lieutenant KASNICK, helicopter pilot check grave site (lying on ground) at #9, Horseshoe Lake. Body located approximately 50 feet from flag left by HANSEN. Body lying face down prone, fully clothed. Mostly skeletal with some tissue in protected areas of remaining clothing.

4/25/84 4:10 p.m.: 3 rings, gold nugget necklace to Flothe from Darla.


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Arrest of Robert Hansen: Grave Digging Begins

With the digging came the smell of death. There was no escape. It clung to every hair in their noses; it was the stench of rotten chicken left to molder. It was also the smell of mourning, of lives needlessly lost. That they found not only bodies, but the vestiges of daily existence — a suitcase, a purse — brought home those losses even more poignantly.

At least it was shared toil, and work that didn’t respect rank. Troopers, sergeants and lieutenants all took their turn at the shovel or the screen. This was, after all, the criminal justice system making good on its word. Come spring, they had promised, we’ll start digging up bodies.


4/23/84: Trooper WAYNE VonCLASEN checks grave sites at Knik River bridge, locates suitcase and purse buried at grave site #6 belonging to TAMMY PEDERSON. Spot pointed out by HANSEN.

4/24/84: Lieutenant JENT, Sergeant FLOTHE, Lieutenant KASNICK, Trooper VonCLASEN dig up body #l at grave site #2 near Jim Creek east of Old Kink River Bridge on north side of river (later identified as Sue Luna).

Lieutenant JENT, Sergeant FLOTHE, Lieutenant KASNICK, Trooper VonCLASEN dig up body #2 at grave site #4 parking area Old Knik River Bridge (later identified as Malai Larsen).


Digging

Digging

Digging


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Arrest of Robert Hansen: Way Too Much Silt

Of the three Knik tactical divers, I’ve only met one — Laddie Shaw. I wish the circumstances had been better: we were at the funeral of Walter Gilmour. Still, the man I met matched the indelible image engraved by Gilmour; Shaw is a wiry bundle of energy and get-it-done intensity who is friendly, open and unassuming.

Shaw is also an ex-Navy SEAL who served in ‘Nam. They don’t make ’em any tougher. Just the right man for the job of finding human remains in the silt of Robert Hansen’s callous disregard for just about everything.

Silt Knik River Railroad Bridge


3/9/84: The Tactical Dive Unit consisting of LADDIE SHAW, Sergeant DON SAVAGE and Trooper MIKE DEKREON conducted a search of the Knik River under the railroad bridge in the vicinity of Mile 30.4 on the Glenn Highway. The bottom search was conducted between the south three sections, to the bank, using a straight line method in addition to individual search. The water depth averaged 12 to 20 inches with a maximum depth of approximately four feet. The bottom was made up of a top layer (approximately four to six inches) of silt with an underlying layer of gravel/silt mix.

It was noted that over the previous year the tide change has been in excess of six feet and with the season changes in weather and fluence, the bottom gradient of the Knik River had made a dramatic change in movement of sand bars, bottom composition, etc. The river was extremely clear with very little debris, including no logs, large branches, however, due to the tidal changes and the amount of silt build up it would be necessary to research the area perhaps late in the fall after the spring run off is concluded.

Silt
Laddie Shaw, Navy SEAL

Silt
Laddie Shaw

Silt
Don Savage (After retiring from the AST, Savage was Wasilla Chief of Police)


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Arrest of Robert Hansen: Too Much Snow

Snow is a reality in Alaska, though how much snow depends on the where of Alaska. Anchorage, for example, is on a coastal plain and doesn’t get as much snow as parts farther inland, closer to the mountains.

Time of year makes a difference too. In March, even if the melt has started, there is still a good chance the ground is frozen. The Chugach Mountains that surround Anchorage, on the other hand, seem perpetually cloaked in white.

Given these realities, getting to Hansen’s grave sites depended on the spring thaw. That was April at the earliest; April sliding into May and then June.


3/5/84: Sergeant FLOTHE, Trooper VonCLASEN and AST pilot utilizing AST helicopter checked the grave sites previously marked along the Knik River to determine when they could be examined. It was noted that a large percentage of the snow cover had melted, however, the ground was still frozen.

3/7/84: Sergeant FLOTHE receives a telephone call from DARLA HANSEN, advises Seargeant FLOTHE that prior to HANSEN’s confession and soon after his arrest, HANSEN asked her to remove weapons that he led her to believe were possibly buried in the back yard.

Later that day, the sergeant was back at Old Harbor Road, this time with a metal detector. He slowly swept the area in back of the house, while Darla stood by nervously. They didn’t find a thing, and Hansen had already denied throwing anything into a septic tank he said didn’t exist.

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

Snow
Backyard of Hansen house, Old Harbor Road (copyright Leland E. Hale)

Troopers FORREST BULLINGTON and VonCLASEN utilizing the AST helicopter checked the grave sites located west of Wasilla. There still, however, was a large amount of snow cover thus preventing any excavation at this time.

Snow
Wasilla Snow in March


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Arrest of Robert Hansen: A Thief Goes Home Again

Troopers already knew Hansen was a thief. A bigtime thief. The initial search of his home on the day of his arrest turned up ample evidence that he was an inveterate five-finger man. But Troopers had no idea how deep his thieving instincts went. Hansen gave them a glimpse when they took him to his residence and he pointed out all the stuff they’d missed. As Hansen himself bragged during his confession, “Hell, I stole more stuff in this town than Carter got little green pills.”

Thief
Photo: jennandjon

Hansen is quoting a variation of a once-popular saying, referring to a “cure all” patent medicine of the last century. As the magazine Southern Living notes, “Carter’s little pills began as Carter’s Little Liver Pills, a patent medicine developed in 1868 by Erie, Pennsylvania’s Samuel J. Carter. At one time, everyone knew Carter’s Little Liver Pills because they were advertised widely. So widely, in fact, that it seemed Carter had an endless supply of pills — which is why the saying originated as ‘more than Carter has little liver pills.’


3/2/84: On Friday, 3/2/84 Sergeant FLOTHE escorted ROBERT HANSEN from the 3rd Avenue pre-trial facility to his residence at which time HANSEN pointed out items which were stolen so that they could be returned to their owners.

Items identified by HANSEN as stolen and seized from the residence included first aid kit from Scenic Lake, a red Homelite chainsaw from a cabin approximately two miles west of Big Lake, ten horsepower outboard motor from west of Big Lake, Craftsman portable radio, Ross desk radio calendar pad, telescope, red vinyl airplane seat containing blue sleeping bag from Merrill Field, green generator stolen from B&C Supply, and a push type lawn mower.

The telescope, first aid kit and a .22 calibre break down rifle and semi-automatic pistol already seized were stolen from Ketchum Air Service cabin sites. The first aid kit, telescope, green generator, lawn mower, and red vinyl airplane seat containing blue sleeping bag are returned to their owners. The remaining items which are unidentified are placed into evidence pending identification.

Thief
Merrill Field (Anchorage,Alaska)

Thief
Big Lake (Call of the Wild Fire, near Big Lake, Alaska)

Thief
Scenic Lake

3/2/84: After transporting HANSEN to his residence Sergeant FLOTHE then transported him to AST Headquarters evidence room with regards to having HANSEN point out which weapons were stolen and which weapons did in fact belong to him. After viewing the weapons HANSEN was then transported back to the 3rd Avenue pre-trial facility.


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Arrest of Robert Hansen: John Henning Finally Rolls Over

Whatever John Henning’s ultimate intent — at the time of Hansen’s arrest he was less than cooperative — the notion that the criminal justice system might start bundling him with Bob Hansen had a sobering effect. Blame it on the reality of his erstwhile friend’s “summer hobby.” If things played out badly, Henning faced charges of aiding and abetting a serial murderer. Yeah, John Henning rolls over just the way the troopers predicted he would.

And Robert Hansen’s alibis turned into a shambles. Henning would now tell the truth about Robert Hansen. His friend Bob never was at his house the night of Cindy Paulson’s kidnapping and rape, Henning would declare at the upcoming trial. So would his wife and son. Bob’s protectors were finally coming clean.


2/10/84: Sergeant FLOTHE, Sergeant HAUGSVEN met with JOANNE and JOHN HENNING and son DARRIN at the District Attorney’s office. D.A. FRANK ROTHSCHILD also present. Discussed testimony with regards to upcoming PAULSON trial.

Rolls
Sgt. Glenn Flothe

Rolls
D.A. Frank Rothschild


Purchase Butcher, Baker