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United States – The victim of a serial killer identified 37 years later

The authorities in Alaska were able to put a name and a face on the body of this victim of Robert Hansen. This is Robin Pelkey.

Alaska Department of Public Safety

Robert Hansen is said to have killed at least 17 women in the 1970s and 80s in Alaska. Most of his victims have been identified, but two bodies remain unnamed. This was the case with “Horseshoe Harriet”, as investigators had dubbed her. His remains were discovered in 1984 near Horseshoe Lake, south of Fairbanks, hence the name of this unknown victim.

But 37 years later, thanks to new advances in genetic genealogy, a new DNA profile of the victim was generated last August, the Alaska Department of Public Safety reported. It was uploaded to an open-access genealogical database, which made it possible to establish a family tree. The name of Robin Pelkey ​​then appeared as possibly that of the victim.

Disappearance notice pad for her

Born in 1963 in Colorado, this young woman lived in Anchorage in the early 1980s when Robert Hansen was committing his murders. But no disappearance notice has ever been issued concerning her. Police have located a very close relative of Robin, who provided a DNA sample. Analyzed last September, it confirmed a very close family link with “Horseshoe Harriet”. Robin Pelkey ​​is therefore one of Robert Hansen’s victims.

This serial killer is known by the nickname “Butcher Baker”, the butcher baker, because he owned a small bakery in downtown Anchorage. He has remained infamous for, after kidnapping and raping his victims, unleashing them in isolated woods and hunting them to death. Born in 1939, he was arrested several times in the 1960s for theft. But in the early 1970s, it was for rape cases that he was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison, but he only spent six months behind bars.

Robert Hansen did not only hunt game, but also the women he kidnapped.

Tribune News Service via Getty Images

This sickly shy, stuttering man suffering from bipolar disorder, schizophrenic episodes and possessing an infantile personality, was arrested by the police in 1983. A young 17-year-old sex worker, Cindy Paulsen, accuses him of the to have kidnapped, tortured and raped. Hanson then allegedly took her to his small plane to transport her to her cabin, accessible only by air or boat. But before climbing into the aircraft, the young woman managed to escape. She accurately describes Hansen to the police who question her. But, despite his criminal record, agents do not consider him a serious suspect, especially because of his reputation as a quiet baker and because a friend has provided him with an alibi. No question of annoying this emeritus hunter appreciated by his neighbors.

Except that three corpses of women have been discovered in the area since 1980 and one of the detectives in charge of investigating his murders is asking the FBI for help in drawing up a profile of the killer. Once this is established, he describes a hunting man with low self-esteem, issues with women and possibly even being susceptible to stuttering. Comparing this with the various criminal records available, the trail quickly leads to Hansen. In October 1983, his home was searched and jewelry belonging to the victims was found in his home. Robert Hansen is arrested.

37 crosses on a map

The scale of his crimes will become apparent when investigators find that the map found in his plane has crosses, 37 to be precise. Three of them correspond to places where bodies were found in the 1970s, without being linked to the more recent murders. These crosses will then lead the investigators to other graves. A total of 15 bodies were found. Hansen has denied some murders but confessed to others, whose bodies of the victims, however, have not been found. He pleaded guilty to the four murders for which the police had evidence but confessed to 17. He was sentenced to 461 years in prison and died there in 2014 at age 75.

Hansen reportedly began his assaults in 1971 and his first victims were young women between the ages of 16 and 19. But then he found that attacking prostitutes was easier, especially because their disappearance did not worry many people. And the construction of a large pipeline in the area had brought in a lot of seasonal workers and, in turn, a lot of sex workers.

Killed at 19

Robin Pelkey’s body was discovered in April 1984, following intensive searches after Hansen’s arrest. The autopsy had determined at the time that it was a woman aged 17 to 23, killed in early 1983, but no report of disappearance matched her profile. She was therefore buried in an unnamed grave. Pelkey ​​was 19 years old when she was murdered. Hansen had told investigators it was a prostitute. He admitted to kidnapping her, taking her to his cabin on a plane and killing her. He didn’t know her name at all.

Today, we know that Robin Pelkey ​​was homeless at the time, living on the streets in Anchorage. “I want to thank all of the soldiers, investigators and analysts who have worked diligently on this case for the past 37 years. Without their hard work and tenacity, Ms. Pelkey’s identity may never have been known, ”said James Cockrell, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety. A stone with his name will be placed on Robin Pelkey’s grave.

There remains one victim of Robert Hansen to be identified. It is about the one nicknamed Eklutna Annie and which was the first body connected to this affair discovered on July 21, 1980. She would have died between November 1979 and June 1980, stabbed in the back. The Alaska Bureau of Investigation has announced that it is using the same genetic genealogy technology to put a name on this victim.

A film inspired by the sinister story of Robert Hansen was made in 2013, with Nicolas Cage in the role of the investigator and John Cusack in that of the serial killer: “The Frozen Ground”.

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