Lonesome Death of Beth van Zanten: Stone Cold Psychopath

His name was Gary Zieger. Kim Rich wrote about him in “Johnny’s Girl,” and how he turned her life inside out. Tom Brennan wrote about him in “Cold Crime,” describing the investigation that pegged him as a stone cold psychopath. One of my earlier blog entries has its own Zieger story.

And then there is what Walter Gilmour wrote about Gary Zieger. This account, taken from the earliest drafts of “Butcher, Baker,” has never been published before.

psychopath
Gary Zieger, Psychopath


“With Beth van Zanten’s foster cousin cleared by the box, and Hansen with an alibi, things were looking bleak, although I had still not run out of suspects, even with a long dry spell where there were no leads worth investigating. In August of 1972, at about the time Robert Hansen was transferred to a halfway house, a young woman named ZeZe Mason was found dead in a gravel pit just outside Anchorage.

“She had been missing for several weeks and our investigation quickly identified Gary Zieger as the prime suspect. I knew Zieger was a killer because he had come to our attention in another case, although he had never been arrested for his involvement.

“In the summer of 1971, State Troopers found the body of a young Native Alaskan boy in a secluded area of the Anchorage International Airport. To the best of our information, the boy had been murdered about three months before we found him. He had been shot six or eight times by a .22, and it was evident he had been running for his life, because there was a trail of shell casings stretching for 60 to 70 yards from where he had fallen.

“Just after we found the body, a guy named Beatty came in with his girlfriend and confessed to the murder. He came in because his girlfriend wouldn’t marry him until he came clean. That was fine. We had a body and a confession. Now all we needed was the murder weapon. While we worked on getting a search warrant for Beatty’s house, we kept it under surveillance. One night, a man unknown to the police came to the house, entered and then left shortly afterwards. We asked his name. He identified himself as Gary Zieger.

“When we finally got the warrant and searched Beatty’s house for the murder weason, it was gone. Zieger was our number one suspect; he was the only person who had come or gone from the residence.

“Beatty had not implicated Zieger in his initial confession. As part of his sentence, however, he agreed to give us the details. He revealed that he and Zieger had kidnapped the Native Alaskan kid in Zieger’s truck, and then forced him to perform oral sex. When he was finished, they told him he’d better run for his life, and he did.

“Zieger, who was a powerfully built man at 5’8” and 185 pounds, ran alongside the boy and shot him with the .22 pistol. Since a .22 isn’t the most lethal weapon, it had taken quite a chase and a whole lot of shots to bring the boy down and finally kill him.

This act alone marked Gary Zieger as a psychopath. There would be more.


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Lonesome Death of Beth van Zanten: Frustration, Politics, Reality

Then-Corporal Walter Gilmour had reached a point in the Beth van Zanten case where, in his own words, “I couldn’t sleep for shit and I needed help.” At the peak of his frustration, he sought out fellow trooper Sgt. Don Church. Now assigned to Alaska’s statewide unit of major crime investigations — the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) — Church had met Gilmour when he was a recruit in the state police.

Even then, Church was a certified hero: during the 1964 earthquake, he was instrumental in saving hundreds of lives as he sent seismic warnings all over the villages in the Aleutian Chain, using his marine radio. He did more than that.

A coveted award citation from the National Police Officers of America noted the following of then-Trooper Church:

“On March 27, 1964 after completing a regular tour of duty this officer learned of an impending tidal wave and with complete disregard of his own safety spread the alarm to villages along his post. He continued for several days to search and rescue victims despite all obstacles.”

Gilmour needed a place to lay his frustration. More than that, he needed the guidance of this man who always stood cool under fire.

frustration
Trooper Donald D. Church in 1964 (Click for Details)


The two of them met at Leroy’s Pancake place in mid-town Anchorage. Gilmour wasted no time getting to the point.

“Don, I’m really up a duck’s ass with this case. The Colonel thinks I’m pushing too hard but he won’t be specific as to what he is talking about and I’m not sure where he is getting his information. I really feel that I can make this case but there seems to be things going on that I’m not aware of. What do you think? Are we missing anything that should be done on this thing?”

Sgt. Church was immaculate as usual, always dressed in a suit and tie. He seemed to ponder the question as they were sitting there and, at one point, Gilmour thought he was not going to answer.

“Well,” says Church, “welcome to the real world. When you were in Fairbanks, you had everything your own way. And that’s why you were brought down here so that they can keep an eye on you. Then when things went your way on the Mayo case (1), you really pissed some of them off. Now you are stumped and they feel free to criticize your methods. It doesn’t make any difference what you do. If you don’t solve the case, you’re wrong.”

And then Church took Gilmour into the politics of frustration. He point-blank told him that another officer, Sgt. Anderson, was now a rival in the minds of both trooper leaders and, worse, his fellow officers. In part that was because Sgt. Anderson was the kind of trooper they admired: calm, collected, got along well with the local D.A.

“Some of the men worked for Anderson before you came along and some see themselves getting included in the CIB,” Church told him. “So they’re over brown-nosing him. Some guys think you are all wet thinking that this case is going to be solved. The worst part is that I have been told it doesn’t make any difference one way or another.”

“Shit, Don, you gotta be shitten me,” Gilmour replied. “What the hell. I was talking to the Director and he told me I could have anything that I needed and to see you if I needed any help.”

“That’s what I mean. Anderson wants the CIB to take over this case. But they are still calling it a local case. I told them you should keep the case, but they really want to take it, so they are going to be second-guessing you all the way along. If the Statewide theory of a criminal investigation bureau is going to have credibility, then they will need staff authority.

“And,” Church continued, “if this case isn’t solved they will decide that the CIB should have line authority. Even if the case is solved, you just got lucky again. Either way you’re the loser. Anyway, I heard that they are going to reorganize and put all the investigations, both local and statewide, under Anderson. That will give him enough to make Captain. Which might not be too bad; at least then there will be no question who is working for who. Because Anderson is the one with the real authority anyway.”

Gilmour’s frustration now met reality. As he later mused, “The thought that the men who were working under my command really felt that their best career bet was to show loyalty elsewhere always made me feel that I couldn’t be sure everyone was as enthusiastic for my plans and guidance as I might have wished.”

It was all there. Frustration. Politics. Reality. Truth was, none of it helped Gilmour solve the van Zanten case one way or the other. Some way, some how, they needed a break.


(1) In September, 1971, a Birchwood youth and his adult companion were found dead down a slope from the Glenn Highway in the Sheep Mountain area. According to police, Lorance Zimmerman, 44, of Spenard, and Paul Hair, 11, of Birchwood were last seen leaving Hair’s home on an errand to Gunsight Mountain. Police would not speculate on how the pair died, but the vehicle they’d been riding in was not found.

The vehicle was later located in Fairbanks. Troopers sent Gilmour to Fairbanks and he ultimately fingered a 21-year-old drifter named Willis B. Mayo, an escapee from the prison farm in Palmer, who was eventually arrested in Washington state for the murders. But not without controversy. The Fairbanks district attorney complained about what he saw as interference by Gilmour, because an Anchorage-based trooper had taken over an investigation in the Fairbanks Police jurisdiction.

For more on the Mayo case, get Cold Crime, by Tom Brennan.


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

Lonesome Death of Beth van Zanten: Family & Friends

Troopers had their hands full with what turned out to be a clusterf*k of witnesses. There were the people who knew Beth — family and friends who could speak to her character and her habits. There were those in the neighborhood who may have seen Beth on her way to — or at — nearby businesses. Finally, there were Greg Nicholas’ friends, who could either alibi him or not. In all of this, truth was a runaway child.

Family & Friends
The most haunting refrain from Beth’s family was the direct quote from her letters: “It’s not fun to date anymore.” It was a theme worth pursuing.

Troopers wasted no time contacting family friend, and Beth’s ex-boyfriend, Ed Tilbury. They ruled him out as a suspect — he was in Cold Bay, Alaska, a thousand miles away at the tip of the Aleutian chain — and had an airtight alibi for the night in question. Even so, Ed provided new insight into Beth’s psyche. “I would classify her as an extrovert,” he said, “even though she was quite naive.”

Family
Beth van Zanten

Fellow students at Anchorage Community College painted a similar picture.

ACC student Curtis Ebeling, focused on her naivete. “She had some beliefs that should not be allowed into the State of Alaska any newcomers. She had some wild idea about building a complex of lodges back in the bush, that would only be occupied by people of her choice.”

Another ACC student, David Crewsdon, told troopers that, “[Beth] was very friendly, had an extrovert personality… The impression I got from her was that she didn’t want to be involved with anyone and as far as I knew, she didn’t date anyone in particular… She would not hitchhike,” Crewsdon added. “And in fact I remember a conversation with another subject that she was lecturing to abolish hitchhiking.”

There was, in these impressions, the notion that while friendly toward family and people she trusted, Beth had a genuine loathing of strangers. The reality of her bound wrists reinforced the idea she had been taken against her will. Either that or… she was taken by someone she trusted.

School friends Andrea Taggart and Louise Hawkins added another dimension to that assessment. Taggart told troopers that, “I was in the Tiki Room [the night of December 22] at approximately 1:00 am.

The Tiki Room was in the Tropics Hotel on Spenard Rd. That was significant: It was across the street from the Fly-By-Night garage owned by Beth’s brother, David.

“I went to the bathroom and as I walked into the girl’s room, sitting on the counter, facing the door with her back to the mirror, was an individual I know as Beth van Zanten. I have known Beth for approximately ten years and have been in several classes at West High School with her. I noticed it was Beth and said, ‘Hi.'”

“She looked at me and smiled like if she should know me,” Taggart continued. “I went to the bathroom and came out and fixed my hair and tried to make conversation with her. I said, ‘How are you?’ and she said, ‘I am really blown away.’ I said okay and goodbye and left.

“Approximately 15-20 minutes later, she came out of the restroom and as I looked up I saw this tall person standing next to the bar. At that time I saw Beth walk up to him. He appeared to be getting some change and both walked into the lobby area. In a minute or two they returned and walked through the entire bar area and out the back door of the Tiki Room.

“Beth was wearing a green ski jacket and scarf… She looked like her hair was a mess, not combed or clean… She hung her head and looked droopy…

“Beth didn’t look good at all.”

“They were not drinking,” Taggart added. “The man was a white male, very tall, 6′ or 6’2″, rather skinny legs. I would say 180 pounds. He was wearing an OD-colored (olive drab) military type parka with a full hood and wolf appearance around it. Jeans, not bell bottoms. Black shoes. Clean hair, dark brown, 1″ or 2” below the ear. Not well-kempt. I’d say he was 22 or 24 years old — or younger. He had a large nose. I did not notice a beard or glasses.”

Hawkins told a similar story. “I saw Beth come through the front door with a man. She then went to the bathroom; while she was in the bathroom Andrea [Taggart] got up and went into the bathroom also. Pretty soon Andrea came back out and told me that was Beth van Zanten in the bathroom and she was stoned out of her mind. That she could barely talk to her…

“The man with Beth was young, early to mid-twenties. Thin, tall, 5’8′ to 6′, with long, dark brown hair. He may have been wearing light, horn-rimmed glasses and possibly a few days growth of beard on his face.”

Based on these conversations, troopers interviewed the bartender and waitress who were working that night. Neither remembered seeing Beth. They also questioned Greg’s cousin; Ronnie Broughton told them:

“When I was at [Dave’s] garage, I went to the bathroom by our car. I did not go into the Tropics [Hotel] bar or bathroom that evening. I have never met or seen Beth van Zanten to my knowledge.”

Soon, troopers sent out a bulletin putting folks on the lookout for the young man Andrea and Louise had seen during the early morning hours of December 23rd.

A slender, long-haired young man believed to have been with Beth the night she disappeared is being sought. Troopers are also looking for the clothes Beth van Zanten had been wearing and ask any person finding a pair of blue jeans, a green down-filled parka or a pair of smooth, rubber-soled green hiking boots to notify authorities. 


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Lonesome Death of Beth van Zanten: Greg’s Second Take

Troopers called Greg Nicholas in for a second interview shortly after talking to his blood cousin, Ronnie Broughton. They needed a second take because the discrepancies were starting to mount, not only from Ronnie, but from Beth’s brothers. The key differences were, perhaps naturally, in the timing of Greg’s visits to the van Zanten household and the garage owned by Beth’s brother.

In his first interview, those events all seemed to happen at once. In his second take, troopers had him concentrate on that crucial timeframe.

Second TakeBeth van Zanten Memorial


December 27 Re-Interview, Gregory Nicholas
Chronology for December 22, 1971 (Summary)

  • 5:45 – 5:50 pm: At Stephens house.
  • 6:30 pm: At Freda Shannigan’s house.
  • 6:45 pm: Left Freda’s house.
  • 7:15 pm: Left airport for Jim Shannigan’s house [Freda’s brother].
  • 7:30 pm: Arrived at Jim Shannigan’s house.
  • 8:30 – 9:00 pm: Left Jim Shannigan’s house, took Freda home, then went to van Zanten residence.
  • 9:00 – 9:30 pm: Arrived at van Zanten’s.
    “I ran into the house front door. I can’t remember seeing anyone home. The house was all lighted up. I went upstairs and Beth was in her room. She was laying on her bed looking at books. That was the first time I was in her room… I was there for 3 minutes… She got up and then I left… Ron and I went downtown and parked in front of the Malemute Bar [next to the Montana Club]. No, we stopped by Dave’s garage from leaving van Zanten’s. We stayed 10 minutes.”
  • 9:45 pm: Malemute Bar.
  • 12:00 pm: Left bar.
  • 3:00 am: Started home.

Troopers already knew that Greg had left out one important detail. After weaving in and out of each other’s presence the night of December 22nd — with Greg and Ronnie going bar to bar, getting drunk — they ultimately left Fourth Avenue together. The two of them, in the company of three Alaska Native women, were stopped by State Troopers at about 1:00 am for drunk driving. The troopers made them take a taxi home.

The bigger question was: Did the timing finally add up? If Greg and Ronnie arrived at the van Zanten’s at 9:00 pm and stayed 3 minutes, they would have arrived at the Fly-By-Night garage by 9:12 pm (9:13 pm, when accounting for Greg’s move from car-to-house and back again). If they stayed for only 10 minutes, they should have left by 9:23 pm. It was another 11 minutes to the Montana Club, meaning they could have arrived by 9:33 pm. Greg’s 9:45 pm estimate was now seemingly in the ballpark.

It was possible, in fact, to line it up with Ronnie’s statement: “Freda asked me to call at 9:00 or 9:30. I called her from the Montana Club.”

And yet the doubts persisted. Had they perchance coordinated their stories? After all, both Ronnie and Greg were trying to reconstruct an evening that had gone sideways in many, unexpected ways. The second take didn’t change that. As troopers pulled on all the threads in their probe, they learned one other thing: there was always another surprise around the corner.


Purchase Butcher, Baker

The Lonesome Death of Beth van Zanten: Cousin Ronnie

Even as Robert Hansen made his initial appearance in this case through the person of Sandra Patterson, troopers would not — could not — dismiss Greg Nicholas as a subject of interest. That Greg was not alone the night Beth disappeared provided an intruiging possibility. Perhaps Greg’s cousin Ronnie could open a path that elevated Greg from subject to suspect.

Troopers immediately brought Ronnie in for an interview. Troopers first questioned him on 27 December, two days after Beth’s body was found.

They soon learned that it was Ronnie who had called Greg and asked him for a ride to the airport. In a very real sense, then, Greg’s December 22 adventure started there, initiated by that phone call from his cousin. Greg met Ronnie where he was then living, with the Stephens family at Thompson Manor, in the Mountain View area approximately 20-minutes away from the van Zanten’s.

Ronnie
Alternate Routes: Van Zanten residence to Stephens residence — Thompson Manor, Mountain View (Apple Maps; illustration Leland E. Hale)


Ronald James Broughton, December 27, 1971
“Greg and I smoked a joint after leaving the Stephens house (5:50 pm or so)… We went to Frieda’s apartment [Ronnie’s erstwhile girlfriend]. Frieda invited us in and I asked if she wanted to go to the airport and she said, “Yes.” She asked if we were drunk. We told her we smoked a joint. She gave me coffee and cookies…

“Later, after going to the airport to pick up Nikki [who was not on the plane], I asked Frieda if she wanted to go out. She said, ‘Yes,’ if she could find a babysitter. Greg said that his cousin Beth might babysit.”

This is a critical turning point in the narrative. One that pointed Greg toward Beth in, perhaps, an inalterable way. We know that Greg did, in fact, call Beth about babysitting. Some of her last words to her brother were that she was going to babysit for a friend of Greg’s and to have Greg wait for her if he showed up while she was at the store.

Ronnie Broughton (cont.)
“We went over to see Greg’s car; I think a kid by the name of Dave [Beth’s oldest brother] was fixing the car. After leaving the shop we could have went to Greg’s house to see if the girl would babysit. From there we went to the Montana Club.*

And then a little uncertainty: “Before or after we left the garage, Greg and I went downtown. I cannot remember if we went to Greg’s house before or after we were at Dave’s garage. I do know that Greg and I drove over to Greg’s house to see if Beth would babysit for Freda. We parked facing east in front of the house.”

“Frieda asked me to call at 9:00 or 9:30. I called her from the Montana Club. She said she didn’t know and wanted me to call her back again. I then left Greg and cashed an Alaska Scallop Fleet check at the Alley Cat and drank three Calvert’s and water. I made the [next] call to Freda at 10:00 or 10:30 pm.

Ronnie
Alley Cat, Anchorage: Bar Token

“I went back to the Montana and had two or three drinks. I then wandered around to the Elbow Room and Ole & Joe’s. I ended up at the Montana Club and went out to the Rabbit Hutch. I remember sleeping on the table. I was pretty drunk.”

Q: Was Greg with you all night?
A: Except two or three times when I left the Montana Club.
Q: How long were you gone?
A: Less than an hour. He was sitting with a girl from Kenai and a girl from Port Graham.
Q: Did you ever meet Beth van Zanten?
A: No. I waited in the car.

Ronnie had not exactly delivered a strike-out pitch. Assuming Ronnie was correct, Greg had about an hour to commit the crime. It was 11 minutes from the Montana Club to the van Zanten’s, plus whatever time it took to get Beth out of the house. That seemed doable. It was another 26 minutes from the van Zanten’s to McHugh Creek and another 20 or so minutes back to the Montana Club. By the time one accounted for Beth’s rape and escape, that’s more than an hour, easy. Not quite so doable.

Ronnie, of course, was drunk. In that scenario, time is more a notion than a reality. At the very least, troopers needed to get back to Greg. His initial chronology was not adding up.


* The Montana Club, which closed in 1984, was a legendary joint on Anchorage’s infamous Fourth Avenue. In its heyday, it hosted country legends Johnny Horton (“North to Alaska”) and Carl Perkins (“Blue Suede Shoes”), as well as Tex Ritter, Merle Travis and Hank Thompson. By the time of its closing, those halcyon days were long gone and Fourth Avenue was known as the most crime-ridden area in Anchorage.


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.

Rehabilitated

“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

Teens Commit Murder in Anchorage: History Repeats Itself

Tip of the Hat: The 2016 murder of David Grunwald was not the first time that Alaska teens were responsible for the inexplicable murder of an erstwhile friend. James Voss recently shared a two decades old tale involving four different teens. That case is instructive, if only because of the sentences handed down after the teens were found guilty.

In September 1995, four teens lingered for hours outside the Villa Nova restaurant, waiting for 17-year-old Allen Boulch to get off work.

Teens
Villa Nova Ristorante, Anchorage

They lured the young Mormon (LDS) teen, who was working as a chef at the Villa Nova, to Kincaid Park on the pretext of drinking, smoking marijuana and shooting targets (two of which were forbidden by his religion). But Philip Chad Wilson, the mastermind who’d talked for days about killing Boulch for allegedly burglarizing his family’s home, had other ideas. He emptied his gun into Allen Boulch, then directed another teen to shoot him with a sawed-off shotgun, mere inches from the victim’s face. A third teen fired into Boulch after that.

Teens
Kincaid Park (south of Ted Stevens International Airport, Anchorage)

Only one of them, Ryan Chernikoff, didn’t join in the violence. But when the teens took $157 from Boulch’s wallet, Chernikoff accepted $20 from their dirty haul. It was Chernikoff who went to the police and told investigators what he and the others had done.

A little more than two weeks later, all four were charged with first degree murder, armed robbery and conspiracy. Three of them immediately entered not-guilty pleas; Philip Wilson ultimately claimed that he meant to shoot at a beer can but, on impulse, shot Boulch instead. The fourth defendent’s arraignment was delayed because his attorney was not immediately available.

Six months later, the first log broke from the dam. In exchange for dropping charges of murder and conspiracy, Ryan Chernikoff agreed to testify against his co-defendants. A week later, Willie Moore also agreed to testify against the remaining two defendants; Moore claimed he took the last shot because he was afraid the others would kill him. Moore also told police that Wilson wanted to kill again.

“Afterward, he [Wilson] said it felt good to kill Allen,” Moore revealed to police. “He thinks it’s an addiction, like pot.”

Wilson’s attorney called that “just teenage bravado.” Judge Karl Johnstone wasn’t having any of it.

He sentenced Philip Chad Wilson to 99 years. Alex Pappas got 65 years for wielding the shotgun. Willie Moore, who testified against Wilson and Pappas, got 55 years. Ryan Chernikoff accepted a plea bargain, was convicted of second-degree robbery, and sentenced to four years.

The four were among the first in Alaska to be prosecuted for murder under a 1994 law that established that 16- and 17-year olds charged with serious crimes can be treated as adults. That same law was applied to Erick Almandinger and his co-defendants. It’s deja vu all over again.

Thoughts on Christy Hayes: Between the Quick and the Dead

For Robert Hansen, the “idea” of The Bush was a place where women could scream and no one would hear them. Christy Hayes was too quick for that. When Hansen failed to get her to The Bush — when she refused to go where he wanted to go — when she, finally, refused to relinquish herself to him — these were the things that saved her life.

It could have turned out otherwise. The troopers would end up with a long list of could-have-been-otherwise. But Christy kept working Hansen’s last good nerve until he was out of ideas. Next time will be different, he told himself. Next time will be different.

Quick


One supposes that Christy Hayes thought sex with Robert Hansen would be quick and dirty. She already had his money. Just go to his camper, do the deed, and be done. She brushed off his suggestion that they take his airplane to Palmer. Christy was all about business. She had three kids waiting at home. This was to be a brief diversion.

Christy Hayes never lost sight of what was most important.

Once inside the camper, Christy stripped naked. Hansen did not. This was another clue. Suddenly there was a silver colored revolver, a stern lecture about cooperating, and guitar wire to bind her feet and hands. Hansen shoved her onto the camper’s bunk, locked her in the camper and drove off, to destinations unknown.

Back in the camper, Christy Hayes went full mama bear.

This man needed to understand that she didn’t have time for this nonsense. “This gotta be quick. I gotta get back to my kids,” she shouted from the back of the truck. “If I don’t get back, they ain’t gonna have no babysitter.”

“They gonna be by themselves. You hear me? I don’t want nobody messin’ with my babies. You hear me?”

Her shouting served to divert Hansen’s attention. He was already paranoid about getting stopped with a woman in his car. No way he could explain this one. He had to get off the main roads, take the back way to Muldoon.

This was no longer about the money, or the sex. This was about her kids.

While Christy Hayes seemed nonstop with her mouth, her hands were twice as busy. Hansen could hear, but barely see her. Soon, she was out of the restraints. Maybe… Nope. The camper door was locked. From the outside.

Suddenly, the brakes slammed, sending Christy to the floor. There was the gun again, pointing at her head through the open window, between the cab and the camper. Christy ducked. Hansen jumped out and ran to the back, determined to regain control.

Quick
Robert Hansen, 1969 (courtesy Anchorage Times)

Christy knew that “quick is, as quick does.” She squeezed through the open window and into the cab of the truck. Locked the window behind her. Locked all the doors. Find the damn key and drive away from here.

Not that quick. Hansen had the truck keys.

The keys gave Hansen only a small measure of control. He tried to reason with her. Fail. He tried to reason with her using his revolver. Double Fail. “Just give me my clothes,” she demanded. She didn’t want to go naked on this chill October night. Fail.

In the cab of the truck, Christy Hayes went full mama bear.

When she started tearing out the truck’s wires, Hansen could no longer keep his patience. When he shattered the side glass, Christy Hayes skipped into the night. That morning, she would hug her kids like no other.


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Christy Hayes: A Case of Missed Opportunities

For law enforcement, the Robert Hansen serial-murders have long been characterized as a case of missed opportunities. Some critics are less diplomatic. After all, Robert Hansen’s violent career spanned more than a decade.

Let it be said: In no one’s world is it normal for a naked and bleeding woman to appear on someone’s doorstep. Nor is it “normal” to find broken glass in the vicinity of an assault. The missed opportunities aren’t hard to find.


<Missed Opportunities
Robert Hansen, Charged with Murder, Leaves Courtroom, Covers Face (Hansen is 4th from left; courtesy Anchorage Times)

  • Missed Opportunities: Christy Hayes Escapes from Hansen’s Truck
    • When Christy Hayes escaped Robert Hansen’s truck and ran to Mildred Johnson’s house, Johnson observed that Hayes was bleeding — and called the police. That was the right thing to do: Johnson didn’t stop to think, “is this woman a prostitute,” didn’t care whether Christy Hayes was black, white or purple.
    • When A.P.D. Officer Hammond arrived, he photographed tire tracks and broken glass in the vicinity where Hayes said the truck was parked. That was the right thing to do. When there’s a crime, you investigate.
    • BUT Hayes told Glenn Flothe that she had left her clothes, to include a blue bag containing her dancing outfits, in the camper when she escaped. Even though Hayes was naked when she came to Johnson’s door, there is no report that the officer searched for her missing clothing.
    • It took until Hansen’s confession for authorities to find out what happened to that clothing.
  • Missed Opportunities: Christy Hayes Spots Hansen at the Bush Company
    • When A.P.D. Officer Loesch was called to the Alaska Bush Company Bar in Anchorage by Christine Hayes, she pointed out a caucasian male in the bar that was identified as Robert C. Hansen.
    • Loesch asked Hansen to accompany him to A.P .D. for an interview, to which Hansen agreed. Hansen did not explain the broken glass at the scene and Loesch did not ask him about it. The report indicates no further investigation was done on the case.
    • What if A.P.D. had been more diligent in following up on Christy’s allegations?
    • What if A.P.D. had dug more deeply into Hansen’s past offenses, including rape and attempted assault with a deadly weapon?
  • Missed Opportunities: Christy Hayes Sees Hansen at Hansen’s Bakery
    • Since Hayes quickly exited the bakery premises, the missed opportunity is fuzzier — yet it brings to mind at least one more “what-if.”
    • What if she’d lingered and, heaven forbid, taken the job? Her employment application included her address. That left her vulnerable to further predations on Hansen’s part.

Lacking action by the authorities, the repurcussions for Hansen’s behavior toward Christy Hayes were entirely self-imposed. The effect of those changes made it harder to catch him — and his violence became more focused.

  • Hansen later installed an eyebolt in his camper, so that it was easier to restrain victims.
  • According to his confession, “I never used the camper again.”
  • He restricted his activities to the summer, when his wife and children were out of town.
  • He switched to a vehicle combination that limited his passenger car to the role of transporting victims to his house and/or his airplane.
  • His airplane assumed an outsized place in his criminal activities.

Source: Statement of Robert C. Hansen, District Attorney’s Office Anchorage, February 22, 1984

(CONTINUED)


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Sgt. Glenn Flothe Goes to Hansen’s Bakery

Robert Hansen’s bakery was perfectly situated. For business. For kidnapping. For murder. A major highway ran in front. It was minutes from the 4th Avenue strip in downtown Anchorage. Minutes from Merrill Field in the other direction. Then there were his hours, starting early in the morning and off by noon. The baker’s hours coincided with those held by the women of the night. If his murders seemed to increase in 1982, his bakery was part of the reason. Hansen lived along a horizontal line that stretched between assignations.


Hansen’s Bakery [was] located in a block building on the southwest corner of 9th and Ingra, having the address of 828 E. 9th Avenue, [and] clearly marked by a large white and black sign over the business front entry doors, stating clearly Hansen’s Bakery.

Hansen's Bakery
Former Site of Hansen’s Bakery — 9th Avenue View (Google Streetview; illustration, Leland E. Hale)

“A utility records check indicate[d] that Robert C. Hansen initiated utilities at the above place of business, being Hansen’s Bakery, on 1-21-82.

“The business hours posted in the window of Hansen’s Bakery state that the bakery is open for business from 6:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. Until recently the sign in the window stated that the business was closed on Sunday and Monday’s, indicating a change from a summer to winter schedule.

Hansen's Bakery
Former Site of Hansen’s Bakery — Ingra Street (AK-1) View (Google Maps; illustration Leland E. Hale)

“Based upon affiant’s and Sergeant Stauber’s personal observations, Hansen’s Bakery employs at least two female workers, who work the counter during the daytime, and one additional male employee that assists Hansen in the early morning hours prior to the bakery opening. It has been further observed that Hansen’s vehicle is gone from his place of business usually prior to 12 noon.”

Source: Affidavit for Search Warrant of Robert Hansen’s Property, Sgt. Glenn Flothe, Alaska State Troopers


Details

The “Hansen Line” stretched on a horizontal, west to east, from downtown Anchorage to Muldoon. Downtown Anchorage was the starting point for things that “went bad.” His bakery was the cover for his late hours in sketchy clubs. Merrill Field became the take-off point for his nefarious deeds. His home in Muldoon, meanwhile, was a kidnap pad, at least when his wife was out of town. Otherwise, the area north of Muldoon, near the Glenn Hwy, served a similar purpose — a place where his regime of terror was rigorously enforced.

All these locales were within 15 minutes of each other. Too close for comfort if you danced for a living. Sgt. Flothe and the troopers took pains to map Hansen’s deadly routine.

  • Affiant [Glenn Flothe] has personally driven in an automobile at legal speeds between Merrill Field and Hansen’s Bakery, at 828 East 9th Avenue, and determined the average time for this trip is 3-5 minutes.

Hansen's Bakery
The Hansen Line: Robert Hansen’s Horizontal World — CLICK TO ENLARGE (Google Maps; illustration Leland E. Hale)

  • Trooper Wayne Von Clasen has informed affiant that Von Clasen has driven at legal speed in an automobile from 7223 Old Harbor Street to Hansen’s Bakery, at 828 East 9th Avenue, and that the trip took 7 minutes.

(CONTINUED)


Purchase Butcher, Baker