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

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

Christy Hayes Talks About Her Kids

Anchorage District Attorney Frank Rothschild presciently noted that, if Robert Hansen had a soft spot, it was for his family. “He is a hell of a humanitarian for his family, isn’t he,” was how Rothschild put it, after the “Butcher, Baker” held up his confession over concerns about his wife and kids. That small button of empathy was the one Christy Hayes pushed when she told Hansen about her kids.

She was desperate, yes, but the mere mention of her kids was enough to give Robert Hansen pause. Maybe she could crack his resolve. Even if she couldn’t, it disrupted Hansen’s plan. That alone gave her half a chance.


[Transcript Lightly Edited for Clarity]

FR: [After you abducted her] I assume that then you, that’s when you tied her up and then you were going to drive somewhere else? Go back in the back of the camper and and get it on and then drive her back. Was that kind of the plan?

RH: Well, uh, right. Uh, uh, she, even when I was tyin … tying her up here in, uh, in North Mountain View, she kept, I kept on telling her, you know, “Just do exactly what I tell you. You’re not going to get hurt in any way, shape or form.” Uh, I said (inaudible), “I’m even going to pay, I’m going to – everything’s going to be just cool.

I said, “Just that it’s going to be me deciding when we’re done, not you.

Uh, I think that was part of the reason, you know, I was always so (inaudible). They always wanted to say when we were done, you know. I figured that, uh, if a person was going to pay for it, uh, they, they, they should be in the driver’s seat, not the gal as to when it was done.

Kids

Anyway, uh, then she kept on saying I’ve got to get home. I think she even, uh, was saying something about she had two or three kids at home, that they… they was going to be by themselves or, or uh, or something or other. I don’t know. She was going on [about] something or other and I said, “Oh, well, all right.”

She started — I went back around the pickup and started driving — and she started yelling and stuff and, and I got thinking, “Well, gee whiz, what if she’s telling the truth and I take her out here and we spent a long ti…time together? I don’t want to be responsible for somebody if their kids are home by themselves.

I said, “Well, bullshit, okay.” I come down off that drive — I can explain it better… (background noise, sigh). I think (pause) I can’t remember exactly how, how the… [stutters] the streets go. I can’t remember how I got up in, in there. Uh, drove up, down, uh, I know that main street drag that goes out through North Mountain View up there…

Kids
Mush Inn to Commercial Drive (Google Maps; Note the proximity to Merrill Field)

JE: Commercial Drive?

RH: Co… Commercial Drive. I got on that, I think I got on… on the street that goes past the Mush Inn and so forth and turned off the highway, uh, I was heading out the highway going out towards — I’m going out to Muldoon to do the normal bit out there.

Kids
Mush Inn in 2017 (Leland E. Hale)

And, uh, right, right away she, uh, started in about she had to be back (inaudible) so quick, so quick, so quick. Uh, and um, think I, I think I turned off right there (inaudible) drove up into uh, to, uh, Mountain View, up in there, pulled off one of the side streets and stopped.

And, uh, went through the deal where I was inside with her and got her tied up and so forth, I got… got back in the pickup and drove around and drove out — I think I was going to drive just out the back by Safeway and down the — I can remember, I went around the block (pause), uh, down past Safeway, down to the intersection.

She was yelling all this here time, uh, that she had to get back, had to get back. Uh, that she had her kids back home or some — her babysit… sitter, if she… if she wasn’t back… I don’t know if she had a kid or not.

Anyway, she was saying something about, urn, uh, uh, she had to be, uh, be back, and before I got to the highway there, I thought, “Aw, bullshit, what if she’s telling the truth,” you know? Uh, she has got a little child back there?

Uh, so I just drove across the highway and drove — I don’t know — I can’t remember how many blocks it is down there — and pulled in on one of the first side streets. I pulled off to the side. I thought, “Well, uh, we’ll make it short and quick right, uh, right here and I’ll take her back up and drop her off and, and, uh, won’t go all the way on out and go all through (inaudible).

Anyway, it was going to all — all was going to happen right there and then, wouldn’t you know, didn’t take as long to get there, didn’t take as long to get back.

FR: Then it went bad.

RH: Yeah.

RH = Robert Hansen; FR = Frank Rothschild; JE = Joe Evans (Hansen counsel)

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

(CONTINUED)


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Christy Hayes Talks to Sgt. Glenn Flothe

Flothe
Sgt. Glenn Flothe (Anchorage Times)

After reviewing the A.P.D. report, on October 5, 1983, affiant [Sgt. Flothe] personally interviewed Christine Hayes. In addition to the information contained in the A.P.D. report, Hayes told affiant the following:

(1) After Hansen parked the pickup and got into the camper to have sex with her for the agreed upon fee, she took off her clothes, but noticed that Hansen did not remove his. Then Hansen pulled a silver colored revolver with with ivory grips, which she thought was at least .357 caliber, and pointed it at her. He got the revolver from under a cushion in the camper.

He pointed the gun at her face and said, “I don’t want to hurt you, but I just don’t like quickies.”

Hansen then bound her hands and feet with guitar wire, put her on the bunk, and got in the cab of the truck and began driving to an unknown location.

During his confession, Hansen insisted he’d never bound the feet of his victims. That was a lie.

Hayes told affiant that she managed to free her hands and feet. Hansen noticed that she was free and slammed on the brakes, causing the truck to stop quickly. Hayes then fell to the camper floor. Hansen then pointed the gun at her from the cab of the truck; he got out of the cab to come around to the back door of the camper.

While he was doing this, Hayes stated she slid into the cab through the open window connecting it with the camper, and closed that window and locked the doors of the truck, so that Hansen could not get in.

Hayes tried to start the truck, but the keys were gone, so she started pulling wires from the dash. Hansen came to the window of the truck and told her to stop, that he didn’t mean to hurt her.

Hansen then broke the window on the driver’s side of the truck with his fist, and Hayes, fearing for her life, escaped out the passenger door and ran naked down the street to knock on the door of a nearby house for help.

Hayes told affiant that before she and Hansen had entered the camper the first time he had asked her if she wanted to take an airplane ride with him to Palmer, to which she replied she did not. [Emphasis added]

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

Flothe
Knik River in the vicinity of Palmer, Aerial View (Alaska State Troopers)

(CONTINUED)


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Christy Hayes: Escape from the Camper

Robert Hansen was asked about Christy Hayes and the “camper incident” during his February 1984 statement to authorities. At that point in his interview, they were not convinced he was telling them the whole truth (and were about to confront him with that fact).

What they knew was that Christy Hayes had been in a street fight. That it was not something she’d easily forget. That she was prepared to testify against him on that basis alone. And there was something else: experiences like those he had with Christy Hayes, and the camper, ultimately drove Robert Hansen to use the airplane as his preferred kidnap vehicle.


[Transcript lightly edited for clarity]

FR: [Tell us about] the black woman in 1979… That happened with her before you had an airplane?

RH: The one when I broke the window and all the…?

FR: Yeah.

RH: Yes. Oh yeah.

FR: Where were you going to drive her? What was the deal there?

Camper
Outskirts of Anchorage, 1970’s (Steven Cysewski)

RH: Sir, I wasn’t really going to go any farther than right there [west of Muldoon near the Glenn Highway]. I thought gee whiz, you know, ah, she was strictly a — well she propositioned me there in that there Embers, I think it was called at that there time. That was just a deal where I just thought that I had sufficiently scared [her that] there wasn’t going to be any problem. She told me there wasn’t going to be any problem, ah, I was just going to have sex with her. Just pull off the side of the road right there and ah…

FR: Somewhere in town?

Camper
Site of Camper Incident, 202 Stewart Street (Google Maps)

RH: …and then take her right back. I said I’m going to drop you off right back up town and that’s it, you know. But ah … When she was up in the cab of the truck… she had that locked, and had, uh, the back window there locked and I couldn’t get, uh, into her. The key for the camper was up sitting on the dash. I had, I had the truck keys, uh, my (inaudible) keys in my hand, but she was locked in the cab with the keys to get into the God damned camper. Uh, from the, the back end, you know. And, uh, she was sitting in there and, you know, had the doors locked, but I couldn’t get in to her…

And, I, I showed her right where the God damned key is, on, laying, it was laying right in fucking plain sight, you know, on, on the dash of the ca … or it was in the pickup. I said, “how in the hell can I get them”, you know. Anyway, she, and she kept on screaming and I just frickin’ got mad and I stuck my hand in and punched the windshield, or the side window, and knocked that completely out and, uh, said something about, “No, I’ll get the fucking keys,” you know, and reached in for them. And then she jumped out the other side door and ran away, you know.

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


Hansen professed that he didn’t like “slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am.” But his arrangement with Christy Hayes had all the earmarks of a “quickie.” As things progressed, it became clear to Christy that Hansen wanted more than that. Cindy Paulson explained it best:

“He said ‘cause he used to work on the slopes and that he would come down and spend money for a girl and go to her room for ten or fifteen minutes. And he said well he was gonna start getting his money’s worth. So he felt he should go and get the girl and… do what he pleased with her.” (Cindy Paulson)

(CONTINUED)

RH = Robert Hansen; FR = Frank Rothschild


Purchase Butcher, Baker