Knik River, Part 4: When Things Went Bad

“When things went bad,” was Robert Hansen’s way of saying he killed someone. The phrase elides the fact that, in every way imaginable, his killings were intentional. Hansen created the situation, placed vulnerable young women in that situation and then, when the moment struck — when they acted out their most natural instinct to escape — Robert Hansen pulled the trigger. Not once. Multiple times.

Escape attempts, he reasoned, were betrayals. More than betrayals, though, they represented loss of control. That’s the one thing he had to have, the one thing he didn’t have. There was no control over his impulses — early on, when he stole a chainsaw, his psychiatrist said as much. So, if he couldn’t control himself, maybe he could control someone else. And when that failed, his anger knew no bounds. Things went bad.

[Transcript lightly edited for clarity]

RH: I laid both my pistol and the rifle up against this shack here and then walked back in to her in there and got her freed and got out you know. Up until that time you know, ah, even what’s — when that guy first flew over — you know, everything was just right. As a matter of fact the plane come over for the first time and I said, there comes a plane. I said let’s ah, let’s get out of sight and, boy you know, she just right away gonna – got over and got behind some bushes and ah, done everything she could to keep out of sight, because I said:

“You know if that son-of-a-bitch lands were going to have a problem. I don’t want a problem.”

Things Went Bad: Aerial View, Knik River
Alaska State Trooper plane, above the Knik (Alaska State Troopers)

RH: She done everything in her possible at that time to keep there from being a problem. And ah, at the airplane before when we took off you know, she was — boy, when it come time to get her into the airplane from the car, she just ran around the airplane to get in quiet. She even asked me “should I duck down.” I said it’s not important. I said just sit there and sit quiet. No problem. Just done everything she could to do exactly what I told her, so that there wouldn’t be a problem. I think I had her convinced of this.

Things Went Bad

But the problem was, I think that when she was there in the meat shack — maybe I shouldn’t have called it a meat shack to her, maybe that’s what maybe got her mind to thinking, I don’t know. I thought about it a lot of times but I don’t know the answer. I know when she — I come back there, just started walking out of there with her, she started, “You’re going to kill me aren’t you? You’re going to kill me.”

I said no I ain’t going to kill you. The problem is over with. The guy is gone.

“Oh no, no, you’re going to kill me.”

She just slapped at me and she started running, you know, she started running — the river’s out this way — and she started running this way. I caught up to her and ah, I got her stopped. I said now look, it’s over. There is no real problem, the guy is gone. It’s all cool now, you know. But she had got hysterical and I couldn’t get her calmed down. She just, ah, the more I tried to talk to her, maybe it was because I was getting excited, but she just got more and more hysterical and she broke away from me again and ah, started to run, you know.

Things Went Bad
Hansen’s .223 Rifle (courtesy Alaska State Troopers)

I just reached back you know, the rifle was laying there and ah – or leaned up against the building — I grabbed — reached back — I took a couple steps back and grabbed that, I ran and caught — and I caught her again and I said now look — I said don’t make a bad thing worse. Don’t — stop — it’s okay. But then I had a gun in my hand and she said, “You’re going to kill me right now.”

Then she — it just went completely, things just went completely bad again. If that son-of-a-bitch hadn’t circled in there, it would have never happened, but that’s — as a matter of fact I’d never had one with me that tried as hard to keep it under wraps, you know. But being there I think when she was by herself there she just – confined in there – that’s when things went bad.

Things Went Bad: Frank Rothschild
Frank Rothschild, Anchorage Prosecuting Attorney

[FR = Frank Rothschild]

FR: Was it with the .223 that you shot her?

RH: Yes.

FR: Right in the woods there?

RH: Yes. By this time we was out closer to — we were still in the woods but we was almost out by the riverbar or river, where the gravel starts going towards the river. There’s still some trees there.

FR: Then what did you do?

RH: Well, the only thing I could do. I didn’t even have a shovel or nothing with me there, you know. I’d went back to the shack there and I got some boards off that and used them for a shovel and dug a hole out there as much as I could and ah, pulled her in and that was it.

Purchase Butcher, Baker

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