Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Hunting Humans

A Suspect Emerges

After making a formal statement at police headquarters, investigators drove the young prostitute to Merrill Field, the airport where she had been taken. They were hoping she could identify her abductor's plane. As they drove through the small airport, she spotted a blue-and-white Piper Super Cub, tail number N3089Z and identified the plane. A check with the flight tower revealed that the plane belonged to Robert C. Hansen, who lived on Old Harbor Road.

Gilmour and Hale wrote that after dropping the woman off at the hospital, Baker and a group of fellow officers went directly to Hansen's house. Hansen became outraged when confronted with the young woman's charges. He claimed to have never met the girl and stated that she was probably trying to shake him down for money. To him, the entire story was absurd. "You can't rape a prostitute can you?" he said. Hansen went on to state that his wife and two children were vacationing in Europe and said that he had spent the entire evening with two friends. His alibi checked out and no formal charges were filed.

Paula Golding, victim
Paula Golding, victim

Just as things seemed to be calming down again, investigators were called to the scene of another grisly discovery. According to reports in The Anchorage Daily News on September 2, 1983, just 10 days shy of the one-year anniversary of discovering Sherry Morrow, another body was found along Knik River. The remains were partially decomposed and buried in a shallow grave. The victim, later identified as 17-year-old Paula Golding, was a topless dancer and prostitute from Anchorage. She'd gone missing some five months earlier. An autopsy revealed that she had been shot with a .223-caliber bullet.

Investigators were now convinced they had a serial killer on their hands and contacted the FBI for assistance. This was not the first time Alaska authorities had dealt with a serial killer, but their last attempt was not successful. Between 1979 and 1981, serial killer Thomas Richard Bunday murdered at least five Fairbanks-area women. When police finally discovered who their killer was, he was already on the run. Just one hour after his arrest warrant was issued, he committed suicide by plowing his motorcycle head-on into a truck.

The FBI was known for its dogged determination in serial murder investigations and everyone seemed to agree on asking for their assistance. In response to Anchorage's request for help, the FBI's Investigative Support Unit sent Special Agent John Douglas, a legendary figure in law enforcement, to help profile Alaska's latest serial killer. Many local investigators felt that Robert Hansen was still a viable suspect and were anxious to share their suspicions with Douglas.

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