The picture of Robert Hansen scrambling in a panic does not comport with the image of a cool, calm, collected serial killer. In fact, a simple deviation from his plan — like a stray airplane flying overhead — seemed capable of disrupting his most carefully conceived objective. Troopers, meanwhile, were closing in on a match between what Hansen told them and what they already knew. Though hers was a lonesome death, this woman would not go unidentified.
Grave Sites, Knik River (Alaska State Troopers; notation by Sgt. Glenn Flothe)
[Transcript lightly edited for clarity]
GF: I’m curious about one thing. This last girl that you talked about, where you had problems out there in the sandbar and the airplane flying over — that girl — what happened to her shirt or sweater or her garment? There was something unusual there that we saw, that we’re looking for an explanation for.
RH: Well she still had — all the way — I know the first — the last time I caught her ah, I caught her by the back of her shirt and I know it ripped at least part way off then ah, and then you know — when I — when I ripped it back down, she halfway stumbled down to her knee and then that’s when she seen I had the rifle again in my hand, and she kept going on about that, “you’re [gonna] shoot me, you’re going to kill me.”
And I said no, just — I’m not, you know. I’m sorry about your — I mentioned then to her something — I’m sorry that I tore your clothes. It was hanging half off her shoulders and so forth. Then she started struggling again some more there. I don’t know if it got ripped more off during the struggle or — I know I lost some buttons in the confrontation there ah, I know ah, but ah, I know her clothes were ripped on that, but they should have been on her.
GF: That’s what I was looking for. You answered my question.
LH: How many times was she shot?
RH: I remember the gun going off ah, how many times it went off I don’t know. Once, twice, three times. I don’t know. An automatic you know – as a matter of fact you know – I’m still – pushed her off and she come back again and I was holding the gun here because I was gonna – I think I even shot at her once with the rifle and this time things were going bad and ah, I think I just used it something like a pistol. I don’t know. I don’t know if I squeezed my hand once, twice, three times, whatever. I’m sorry I don’t know. Maybe I squeezed it more times than I hit her. I don’t know. Obviously I hit her at least once. If it was more than once I can’t tell you.
LH: Bob, did you try to pick the brass up?
RH: I don’t think so. You said you found some brass out there.
LH: Unh huh. Yeah, there was.
RH: Obviously I didn’t. If I had picked up some of it up, I would have picked it all up.
LH: Beings we’re on this subject, how did you meet her?
RH: I pretty sure I met her in – seems like that one was met in the Bush Company. I’m not sure on that but I’m pretty sure.
GF = Glenn Flothe; RH = Robert Hansen; LH = Lyle Haugsven
The woman Hansen was talking about was Paula Goulding, a Kona, Hawaii, native who’d worked as a secretary in Fairbanks before moving to Anchorage to try her hand at dancing. Her lonesome death, far from home, was underscored by that fact: she was new to the game and Robert Hansen took advantage of her inexperience.
Paula Goulding (Alaska State Troopers)
“Paula was reported missing in April 1983 by a friend, who told APD that she hadn’t been seen since the 24th of the month. The friend, a woman who was Paula’s roommate, told APD that Goulding was a Caucasian female, 30 years of age, about 5’7” tall, weighing about 125 pounds, with short, curly hair. She said that both of them were dancers at the Great Alaska Bush Company in Anchorage.
“Hunters found her decomposed remains buried in a very shallow grave on the sandy riverbank. When troopers investigated the site, they had seen exactly what Bob Hansen described. The murderer had been in great haste or had panicked. The body was still clothed. She was wearing unbuttoned and unzipped blue jeans, a striped sweater that had been cut in half in front, a bra that had also been cut in half, and tan boots. There was brass in her grave, brass that was recovered by Rollie Port.
Evidence Recovery (courtesy Anchorage Times)
“At the autopsy conducted the next day, several facts were determined. The female victim had been in her late twenties or early thirties. She had been killed by a single small-caliber gunshot wound to the sternum. The bullet had passed through her heart.
“The state of decomposition was such that fingerprints could not be taken. They did have an intact jawbone, and they finally identified her by matching the jawbone to her dental charts.”
Walter Gilmour & Leland E. Hale
Purchase Butcher, Baker