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

Life with Robert Hansen: Rothschild Defines “Cold”

As Assistant District Attorney Frank Rothschild articulated the depth and depravity of Robert Hansen’s crimes, one description rose to the top. “This man was cold,” Rothschild told Judge Moody. Everything about him, everything he did. Cold.

“He said, I tried to act tough as I could to get them as scared as possible. Get my hand on the girl’s hair, hold her head back and put a gun in her face to get them to feel helpless, scared right there… [He] talked about wanting to have complete control and domination over these people. As long as I can control the situation then there’s going to be no problem, I won’t have to kill anybody. I’ll get what I want and send them back on the streets,” Rothschild continued, paraphrasing Hansen. […]

“And when asked, well, what happened Mr. Hansen, if they didn’t go along with the program, he said, well, then they stayed. Those were his words. He would even tell them if things don’t go right, boy, this is where you’re going to stay. To scare them.”

At this point, the Assistant D.A. took a leap into conjecture. Informed conjecture, but conjecture nonetheless. It was the kind of conjecture that gets movies made.

“And while he doesn’t talk about it or admit to it, it’s obvious from reading through and looking at where things started and where the women ended up, he hunted them down, Judge. He let them run a little bit and then he enjoyed a little hunt just like with his big game animals. He toyed with them, he wanted to scare them, he got a charge out of all this.

Cold
Hansen Victim Grave (clothing and shoe)

“They weren’t shot right where it all started; he let them run, he grabbed them and they’d claw a little bit and he’d let them run a little more and he played with them. He doesn’t look big and strong but he is.

“One time he called this a summertime project. What a lovely word for his handiwork, a summertime project. And he did admit that none of them went willingly. Even when he went through the map and talked about where all these women were and pointed out to us where they were, it was cold. He said, well, there’s one here and there’s one there and you’ll find one next to this tree and one under that road. They weren’t people to him. They weren’t human beings to him.”

Cold
Trooper Dig on Knik River

It’s here that I disagree with Rothschild (and others). I personally don’t find it completely credible that Hansen routinely released his victims so he could toy with them. In part that’s because of what Rothschild himself says of Hansen:

[He] talked about wanting to have complete control and domination over these people. As long as I can control the situation then there’s going to be no problem…[emphasis added]

By releasing his victims, even in the relative safety of the Alaskan bush, Hansen was effectively reliquishing control. That goes in the face of everything else Hansen did. Remember that Hansen was meticulous in his precautions. He sought to control things down to the knat’s ass last detail.

  • Never going on a “date” at the first meeting, but making a rendezvous at the time and place of his choosing.
  • Making sure they met him at a location where he could ensure they were unaccompanied.
  • Abandoning the rendezvous if he saw them with other people.
  • Using restraints so the women wouldn’t get out of control in his car.
  • Forcing them to sit on the floor of his vehicle, so no one could see them.
  • A pistol always at the ready, the better to maintain control.
  • Choosing private and/or remote locations for sex.

In this context, the notion that Hansen routinely toyed with these woman, as Rothschild suggests, is incongruous. Robert Hansen wanted complete control, at all times.

Cold
Measuring Grave Depth

That the women were often found a distance away from the start of their ordeal also doesn’t require Rothschild’s definition of cold. Remember Cindy Paulson’s escape.

Cindy used a single distracted moment to make it hundreds of feet — in handcuffs — before Hansen caught up with her. Had she been in the bush, she would have been dead right there. Instead, a citizen in a truck came by to save her life.

We know that other women also fought off Hansen and tried to escape, including Christy Hayes — who succeeded. By Hansen’s own admission, others tried to fight him off. And lost.

That said, there remains the possibility that Hansen’s crimes evolved to the point that they reached the levels Rothschild supposes. Glenn Flothe tells us that Hansen’s acts of violence became increasingly savage toward the end. That he shot them multiple times, past the point of death. And then he knifed them, striking so ferociously that he appeared intent on obliterating them. That much we do know. The rest is speculation.


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Life With Robert Hansen: Assistant D.A. Frank D. Rothschild

It was up to Assistant District Attorney Frank Rothschild to articulate the depth and depravity of Robert Hansen’s crimes. When he went before Judge Ralph E. Moody at Robert Hansen’s sentencing, he stood in for all the victims who could not be heard, and for the few who got away. He also stood in for all the upstanding citizens of Alaska, as their voice and their conscience. He did not spare his criticism of those who aided and abetted Robert Hansen. In good conscience, he could not.

As Rothschild recalled Cindy Paulson’s escape from Robert Hansen, he noted her fear. “Dr. Hollingshead, who saw [Cindy] in the emergency room, and he’d worked there for years and seen victims of all kinds of crimes, he’s seen people fearful, had never seen a woman so scared out of her wits that she’d seen her Maker.”

Rothschild went on to describe what happened next.

Rothschild
Assistant D.A. Frank D. Rothschild at Robert Hansen’s Sentencing

“But he had an alibi,” Rothschild told the judge, referring to Robert Hansen. “Just as he always said he was going to do to all of the women in the speech he gave them, he told them that he had someone waiting to give an alibi so they might as well not talk. It wouldn’t do them any good, who would believe them, a hooker, a dancer who dances naked, versus this man, respectable, and his friends.”

Rothschild
Judge Ralph E. Moody

“[Hansen] was a little worried this time, though, because she had handcuffs on when she ran out and he had some concerns about that. He thought she might be a little more believable given the fact that she was wearing handcuffs, so he rushed home and called his good friend John Henning, he’ll alibi for me. And sure enough he did.”

“Now, he didn’t tell John Henning the truth about what had happened and John Henning is a man who says that, in his mind, why, it’s just an occupational hazard of women who work the streets to get a little roughed around or have these kinds of problems. So he stood up for his buddy, agreed to provide the police with a alibi, took his weapons from him because he was afraid the police might be suspicious with him having weapons; not only that, but it would have been a crime for him to have a handgun, of course.”

“And when the investigator called him, he told then flat out, he was with me all night, couldn’t have been with that street prostitute. Was confronted twice more by the investigator, once at the police department. Oh, no, he was with me. The police officer read him the riot act and said, now this is the time to come forward and these are serious charges and you could be obstructing justice. And he said, oh, no, he was with me, just as calm and cool as can be.”

Rothschild
Cindy Paulson

“He does more than that, we find now. They get the wonderful idea and Mr. Henning says, hey, why don’t we get another alibi since we’re doing it. I know some cab driver friend, let’s get him to come forward and say that he delivered pizza and beer while we were together that night. We got two alibis now. And they go over to this guy’s house, the two of them, and they tell the man, we need an alibi. […] And he went along with it.”

“This same friend tells [Hansen] to rush off, that he’d better get an attorney. This same friend who knows a doctor out there at Humana Hospital, goes to his doctor friend, tells him about the trouble his buddy is in and asks him to go into the records and get, if he can, the name and address of the woman who accused him of rape. That doctor went to the emergency room doctor and asked him to get those records.”

“And he didn’t give them. And he told his doctor, the police are involved. Dr. Hollingshead suspected this was the man who was abducting all the women off he streets and he told him he better back off. And he did.”

“But Mr. Henning sure was a good friend.”


Purchase Butcher, Baker

The Arrest of Robert C. Hansen: Cindy Paulson in Hindsight

This blog has explicitly recognized the importance of Cindy Paulson in blowing the Robert Hansen case wide open. We have, in fact, dedicated 22 posts to Cindy, more than any other single person involved in this case (although Sgt. Glenn Flothe is there throughout). We do this, of course, with the benefit of hindsight. In the real world, that “hindsight” took a while to develop. Not too long, mind you. But long enough for Hansen to have struck again, had he not been so freaked out about what had gone down with Cindy.

Hindsight
Cindy Paulson

In the entries below, Sgt. Glenn Flothe chronicles the day-to-day of the “missing dancers” investigation. We call them “missing dancers” because, before Cindy, that’s all the police had. Dancers who had suddenly gone missing.

These entries record the rhythm of police work — and how one discovery leads to the next. A new piece of information surfaces. A trooper follows up on it. Two weeks later, he takes a two week vacation. It takes more than a month for him to receive the case file from another agency. Even so, Sergeant Haugsven’s earliest steps show that he takes the Cindy Paulson information seriously.

He looks for the cabin that Hansen mentioned to Cindy. He starts keeping an eye on Hansen’s airplane flights. These small steps will soon pay off. These small steps began to provide “hindsight” into the biggest serial-murder case in Alaska history.


6-13-83: CINDY PAULSEN reports rape-kidnapping to Officer Baker and later Investigator Dennis.

6-16-83: A.P.D. Investigator Maxine Farrell relates PAULSEN incident to Lyle Haugsven – A.S.T. Haugsven contacts Investigator Dennis and subsequently follows investigation.

7-01-83 to 7-17-83: Sergeant Haugsven on leave.

7-01-83 to 8-12-83: Sergeant Flothe on leave.

7-17-83: Sergeant Haugsven returns.

7-22-83: Sergeant Haugsven attempts to locate cabin owned by HANSEN — negative results.

7-25-83: Sergeant Haugsven receives a copy of PAULSEN case from A.P.D. Officer Baker via Sergeant Stogsdill.

7-27-83: Sergeant Haugsven initiates Merrill Tower reporting of HANSEN’s flights.

8-12-83: Sergeant Flothe returns from leave.

8-20-83 to 9-05-83: Sergeant Flothe in Southeast Alaska working INVESTOR case.

8-27-83 to 9-14-83: Sergeant Haugsven on leave.

Source: Sequence of Events Leading to Arrest of Robert C. Hansen, 1/31/84, Sgt. Glenn Flothe (“Ruff Copy”)


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Butcher, Baker; Frozen Ground; Fair Game

This too will pass… but indulge me for a moment while I eat sour grapes…

This should be a happy week. The movie version of the Robert Hansen serial murder case, called Frozen Ground, is enjoying a limited opening in theaters somewhere in America. But in the grand scheme of things, um… There’s not as much happiness as I would have liked…

My book, Butcher, Baker, is an afterthought in all of this. A coulda, woulda, shoulda. My gut sense is still that it shouldn’t have come to this, but life is complex and sometimes co-authors (and literary agents) don’t see eye-to-eye. I am trying to be diplomatic.

To add insult to injury, I just got a mail from Amazon, touting Fair Game, another book about Robert Hansen. Calling it “the Definitive Account of the Crimes of Alaska Serial Killer Robert Hansen.” For the record, I just want to say “bullshit.”

But you be the judge. Read both books. See the movie. Look at the arc of the story. Pay attention to how long it takes Cindy Paulson to appear in each version (and yes, it’s true, the publisher made us give her a pseudonym; think of her as the 17 year old who got away).

And Bernard, no hard feelings. Really. Congratulations. Fair Game, right?

Butcher, Baker: Hidden City, Pt. 3

Trooper Sgt. Glenn Flothe has described Cindy Paulson (Kitty Larson), the young woman who escaped Hansen and led to his downfall, as one of the best witnesses he’s ever worked with. Hidden City: Anchorage mentions, for example, that she’d memorized the tail number of Hansen’s plane. She also memorized the location of his house. And everything in his basement.

She did so because, in her own words, “this motherfucker wasn’t getting away with it… I knew I was in trouble… But if there was any chance of me getting away, he wasn’t getting away with it.”

As in any criminal investigation, details matter.

Consider what occurred when Cindy Paulson was at Merrill Field ID’ing Hansen’s plane with an officer from the Anchorage Police Department. While they were observing the plane, a private security guard at the air field approached and told them he had seen someone at 5:14 a.m. that same day.

[The security guard] observed a white male running from that Super Cub to a green vehicle and that he noted the vehicle to have Alaska license number BJZ775. [The guard] also stated that the man was wearing a green coat and cap and that he ran from a wooded area at the rear of the airplane toward the green vehicle. When the man saw [the guard], he slowed his pace to a walk, and entered the green vehicle and drove away.

That license number turned out to be registered to a green Buick, owned by Robert Hansen. There were several people being very observant that day. None better than Cindy Paulson. But she was not alone. Details matter.

Want to learn more about the Robert Hansen murders? Read “Butcher, Baker,” by Walter Gilmour and Leland E. Hale. More here…

So You Want to Make a Movie

My fascination with the movie business may fade, but for the past year or so it’s held more than a share of my attention. I’ve read (and discussed) Edward Jay Epstein’s landmark work, The Hollywood Economist. I’ve followed the money trail of State Film incentives. I’ve even spent a few words on Nicolas Cage and his unique approach to acting.

And then the esteemed Horace Dediu does it again. Shines light in places that, you know, might need some. In a chart-laden screed, Horace digs into the available movie data, reviewing statistics on around 12,000 titles released between 1975 and the present. Impressive in itself.

Most impressive to me are two very telling charts. One we’ll call “what gets made.” The other we’ll call “what makes money.” It is a tale of two cities (apologies to Charles Dickens).

What Gets Made
Drama, Comedy and Romance account for 60% of movies made.

Horace Dediu -- Hollywood by the Numbers (What Gets Made)

What Makes Money
Action and Adventure are the big money makers.

Horace Dediu - Hollywood by the Numbers - What Makes Money

Dediu attributes this differential to the so-called blockbuster audience. Adolescent males. If we didn’t know it already, Hollywood says a big hello to testosterone. And testosterone says, “hello” right back. Lest there be any doubt, check out the blockbuster release schedule.

Blockbuster Release Schedule (Titles Grossing over $200 M)
Note the emphasis on the U.S. school holiday schedule (summer and winter break).

Horace Dediu - Hollywood by the Numbers - Blockbuster Release Schedule

What do I make of this? Looking narrowly at the Robert Hansen movie, The Frozen Ground, there are several takeaways. As a “thriller,” the film overlaps the action genre. Put that in the plus column. As a film set for a December release, it fits into one of the two prime release slots. Another one for the plus column.

Additionally, two of its stars have teen-cred. Vanessa Hudgens (who plays prostitute Cindy Paulson) and 50 Cent (who plays her pimp). Two more in the plus column.

Having Nicolas Cage and John Cusack on board doesn’t hurt things, either. Hey, this Frozen Ground thing could be a success.

I was told early on that producer Randall Emmett knows his business. That becomes more obvious by the minute. Looking back, it perhaps explains (in part) why there was so much pressure to sign an Option Agreement for “Butcher, Baker” in November-December of 2010: for Frozen Ground to make a December 2012 release, things needed to line up on schedule. It is, after all, a high-stakes business. Ah, the joys of hindsight.

What Happened to Glenn Flothe?

When the movie the “Frozen Ground” was first announced, the filmmakers made a pretty big deal of the fact that it was going to focus on two real-life people, Sgt. Glenn Flothe and Cindy Paulson. Or did they?

Cindy Paulson was the teenage prostitute who got away from Hansen, leading to his arrest and conviction. Sources tell us that Cindy Paulson worked with the filmmakers in telling her story. A look at the full cast and crew on IMDb confirms that, indeed, Vanessa Hudgens stars as Cindy Paulson.

Glenn Flothe was the Alaska State Trooper whose belief in Cindy Paulson helped bring Hansen in. According to the Variety story announcing the film, “Cage would portray the Alaska State Trooper who cracked the case.” Sounds like Glenn Flothe to me. Sounds like Glenn Flothe to a lot of people. But the Wikipedia entry for The Frozen Ground tells us another story:

“The Frozen Ground” is based on the true story of Alaskan detective Glenn Flothe (called Sgt. Jack Halcombe in the movie). Halcombe (Nicolas Cage) sets out to end the murderous rampage of Robert Hansen (John Cusack), a serial killer who has silently stalked the streets of Anchorage for more than 13 years.

Ok, all of this is fine, really. Stuff happens on the way from script to screen. And we notice that, while most of the cops kept their real names, other characters have not. For example, Darla Hansen is now called Fran Hansen. Huh?

But there is still something nagging me. Maybe it’s this little piece by Sheila Toomey in the Anchorage Daily News, datelined November 5, 2011:

Earwigs have been wondering why the Nicolas Cage character isn’t called by the name of the actual trooper who led the task force that nailed Hansen, Glenn Flothe. Other cop characters have the names of the real people. Maybe we’ll find out when movie publicist David Linck interviews Flothe. Linck announced Thursday that Glenn had agreed to chat on tape.

Two months on and still no sign of a Glenn Flothe – David Linck interview. Just saying.

eBook Pricing

Dan Gillmor recently pinned a piece for The Guardian (UK), in which he describes the “great ebook price swindle.” The article struck a chord with me, because I am wondering about the best price for an ebook version of “Butcher, Baker.”

Gillmor’s argument is that (greedy) publishers have adopted the agency model and, in the process, driven up prices of ebooks to the point where they are equal to, and occasionally higher, than the hardcover version. I have written elsewhere that publishing is a three-legged stool — and that the author deals Amazon is offering are less than stellar. Most commentators (including Gillmor) conveniently ignore the author. Indeed, Gillmor makes an argument that I’ve rejected in the past, namely that the current ebook pricing model is solely anti-consumer. But he says one thing that gives me pause:

When new ebooks were $10, I was buying them all the time. In almost all cases, book purchases are impulse buys – something you want to have, right now. I was buying new best-sellers at a rapid rate, and happy to do so… No more. I still buy some e-books, but only at lower prices.

You know, as much as I hate ridiculous royalties, I have no interest in driving buyers away. So here’s what I’m looking at…

The paperback version of “Butcher, Baker” has been selling at anywhere from $8.99 to $25.00. The latter seems too high (and I think I know why that’s happening, BTW. Greedy publisher). The former seems like a bare minimum. And, of course, I know what I’m up against… According to a 2007 study, one in four Americans read no books in the previous year. The Trade Categories (hardcover, paperback and mass market) were down 34.4% from February 2010 from February 2011.

Dan Gillmor speaks to the “impulse buy” in ebook land. I think that’s where I’m headed. After all, “Butcher, Baker” is smack in his comfort zone.

The books I bought this way tended to be mysteries and thrillers – the kind of book purchases I treated like movie tickets, to be read or seen once and then put aside.