Forensic testing eventually identified the decomposed remains as Sherry Morrow, a 24-year-old exotic dancer from Anchorage’s Wild Cherry Bar. Friends told investigating cops that Sherry was last seen November 17, 1981, shortly after she told them a guy had offered her $300 to pose for some photos.
The cause of death? Three gunshot wounds from a .223 rifle. In fact, hers was the third decomposing female body discovered in this same general area. This seemed more than happenstance. There was little doubt that a serial killer was stalking the Alaskan wilds.
CHECK OUT THE EARLIEST Pope & Young Club record books and you can find the name of Robert C. Hansen. In fact, at one time the transplanted Iowan claimed several noteworthy Alaskan bowhunting successes, including the world record Dall’s sheep and the number two barren ground caribou, both tagged in 1971.
But that was long before the smallish, acne-scarred, bespectacled and stuttering sadist was exposed as a cruel killer who preferred hunting and killing a different kind of game: topless dancers and prostitutes. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Hansen routinely abducted women from the seamier sections of Anchorage, flew them in his Super Cub to a wilderness cabin, then savagely raped and further brutalized them.
Finally, he released his terrified captors – naked, disoriented and alone – into the surrounding woods. Later Hansen calmly picked up his rifle, tracked down his fleeing prey and shot each woman dead.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END for Bob Hansen occurred on June 13, 1983, when a frantic girl with a handcuff dangling from one bruised wrist flagged down a passing truck driver.
The young prostitute later told police that she’d been offered $200 for oral sex by a small man with a pock-marked face. Midway through the sex act, her customer suddenly snapped a handcuff on her wrist and pulled a pistol. Driving her to his nearby house, he brutally raped her, angrily bit her nipples and shoved a hammer handle into her vagina. Next, the man drove his stunned victim to a waiting airplane, forcing her inside. But as he loaded supplies for a flight “to his cabin in the mountains,” the girl suddenly threw open a door and ran screaming into the night. Hansen pursued her but vanished when a passing truck driver stopped to assist the battered whore.
The girl later identified Hansen’s home and his blue and white Piper Super Cub with tail number N3089Z. He denied the attack, of course, claiming the girl was trying to get him into trouble and likely wanting some sort of payoff.
But Hansen’s cloak of respectability as a very successful bakery shop owner, devoted husband and father of two children, was beginning to slowly fray and unravel. When one of his rifles was positively identified as having fired the shells that killed Sherry Morrow, the Knik River sandbar corpse, Hansen realized that his decade-long killing spree was over. He pled guilty on February 18, 1984, and promptly sought to cut a deal that would save his miserable life.
In time Robert C. Hansen led authorities to 15 gravesites. Seven bodies were recovered. He ultimately was charged with four counts of first-degree murder.
EVEN BEFORE HIS ARREST and conviction, Hansen was viewed with some suspicion by skeptical Alaskan bowhunters. Rumors abounded that Hansen had killed his world record ram in an area closed to hunting and used a rifle – not a bow – to kill the big sheep. I spoke with one bowhunter from Alaska who’d encountered Bob Hansen during his ’71 sheep hunt. He was carrying a rifle, not a bow, according to the eyewitness.
But Hansen signed a Fair Chase affidavit, swearing that he’d legally taken the record class Chugach Mountains ram scoring 163 1⁄8. And for a short time the name of Robert C. Hansen – a mentally unbalanced killer and pathological liar – was listed as the man who tagged bowhunting’s best Dall’s sheep.