Kidnapped: Thoughts on Cindy Paulson

On June 13, 1983, Cindy Paulson was kidnapped and raped, her life threatened by Robert Hansen. Her eventual getaway was central to Hansen’s ultimate capture and confession to the murder of dozens of women. Three months later, Cindy agreed to a detailed interview with Sgt. Glenn Flothe, the Alaska State Trooper in charge of the homicide investigation. This interview helped pave the way for Hansen’s indictment in the murders.

Purchase Butcher, Baker

Cindy Paulson
Cindy Paulson

Cindy Paulson sounds so young in this interview. Of course, she does. She’s barely eighteen. She’s still a teenager.

Not your typical teenager. This young woman is already world-weary. She talks about making appointments with “gentlemen.” Has a spot staked out on the street where the hookers hang. A motel room primed for turning tricks. She knows enough not to willingly go to a stranger’s house. Is convincingly casual when she speaks about giving blow-jobs in a car. Knows a place where she can do the deed without being spotted.

But her teenager keeps breaking out, not to be deprived of a momentary thrill:

CINDY: …He offered me $200 for a blowjob in the car, ‘cause I wouldn’t go to his place. “‘Sure, no problem,’ I’m like, ‘fine, no problem.’ ‘Hey, no problem,’ you know.”

FLOTHE: Two hundred dollars is a lot of money…

CINDY: Hey, for a blowjob in the car, hell yeah.

Exchanges like that put me in parent-mode. Sure, you’re worth it, I want to tell her. Not everyone gets an offer like that. Then I want to admonish her. “But Cindy, listen. That’s way too much money for a blow-job in a car. This guy isn’t to be trusted.” Perfect parental hindsight.

AST Sgt. Glenn Flothe
Sgt. Glenn Flothe

Glenn Flothe, on the other hand, plays this perfectly. He doesn’t go parental on her. Gets her to keep on talking, as her mind unwinds a hundred — a thousand — details.

Cindy Paulson describes Robert Hansen’s den (Video; copyright Leland E. Hale)

And that’s the parallel thread. Cindy Paulson is armed with a steel trap mind. One is tempted to think that this is what saved her. She’s not flawless; her emotional overload is palpable. By all rights, she should have been dead, another nameless young woman caught in Hansen’s web. Instead, once captured she continuously plots ways to put herself a step ahead of Robert Hansen. In the end, she was a step ahead of Robert Hansen. Only one step, but that’s all it took.

She was also a little bit lucky. At this point in his deadly career, Robert Hansen was getting a little careless. The signs are obvious. The gun left on the roof of his car. The car door left ajar. His casual stroll between the trunk of his car and the plane. To his mind, everything was under control. He knew the drill. He’d done this before. But Cindy Paulson was a wildcat waiting to spring. Bob Hansen wasn’t ready for her.

Glenn Flothe once told me that Cindy Paulson was one of the best witnesses he’d ever met. I believe him. That she survived to tell the tale is her own little miracle.

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