He Hunted Women For Game: This Psychotic Killer Grew Up in a Farm Town North of Des Moines, Iowa
One of the most brutal murderers in history to have ties to Iowa is Estherville native Robert Hansen.
A fairly harmless, normal-looking guy, Hansen grew up with a stutter and acne. He was often made fun of and didn't have many friends in high school.
Following his graduation in 1957, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve where he became a skilled marksman.
Following his return to Iowa after bootcamp, he worked at his father's bakery (as he did in high school) and would occasionally serve as a drill sergeant for the police academy in Pocahontas. In December of 1960 he burned down a school bus garage at the high school in Estherville, and was turned in by a friend.
Convicted and sentenced to three years in prison, Hansen served just 20 months before being paroled.
In 1967, after serving several more jail sentences for petty theft, he moved to Anchorage, Alaska in order to start a new life.
Moving states didn't help him escape his demons.
Just five years into his stint as an Alaskan, he was arrested for an abduction and attempted rape of a woman, and the sexual assault of another.
Serving roughly six months of jail time after these horrid crimes, a chord was struck inside Hansen. It was if he thought to himself 'If I can walk away from this unscathed, imagine what else I could do!'
That's where the ferocity of his crimes increased, and they wouldn't stop for a decade.
From 1973 to 1983, Robert Hansen abducted sex workers, flew them to remote areas in the Alaskan wilderness, and hunted them.
After the instant explosion in population due to the Trans-Alaskan pipeline construction in Anchorage, sex workers flowed in, following where the money went. And thus, there were plenty of victims for the 'Butcher Baker' to prey on.
At the time, if a sex worker went missing, it was assumed she had left to make significant money elsewhere, or the local authorities put in little effort to find her, given her choice in occupation.
According to oxygen.com, Hansen had a very specific M.O.,
He offered his victims money for sex, then pulled a gun on them once they were in his car and took them to a secondary location where he raped and tortured them.
Then, he’d drive or fly them to a remote area and release them into the wild so he could track them like animals before killing them and disposing of their bodies.
As the bodies began to be discovered in shallow graves, on river beds, and in lakes, the local authorities new they had to have a serial killer on their hands.
After years and years of rape and murder, Hansen finally made one mistake that would end his killing spree in June of 1983.
According to historydaily.org,
Hansen abducted teenage sex worker Cindy Paulson and raped and tortured her in the basement of his home, according to the Anchorage Daily News. The next day, he drove her to an airfield to fly her off into the wilderness and certain death.
As Hansen loaded his plane, Paulson saw an opportunity to make a break for it. Barefoot and handcuffed, she ran to a nearby road and flagged down a trucker, who drove her to the Anchorage Police Department.
Having spent so much time in Hansen's basement, Paulson was able to identify a plethora of markers to tell police who had taken her. Her profile fit Hansen perfectly.
The site continues:
A search of Hansen's home revealed a variety of secret compartments and hidden rooms, including a soundproof room in his basement that held a map of Anchorage marked with 20-plus locations, likely where he buried his victims. In the attic, police found an extensive jewelry collection (trophies that he kept from his victims) as well as a .223 caliber rifle.
After his capture, Hansen would confess to the killings of 17 women. He'd ultimately help the authorities find 12 of the bodies.
After being sentenced to life in prison plus 461 years, the Iowa-born monster would die in prison in 2014 of natural causes.