As the last woman in Hansen’s grisly parade, Cindy Paulson’s kidnapping ranks — or should rank — as the epitome of Hansen’s deadly protocol. As a control freak, maintaining dominance meant he could live his fantasies again and again. He had, by then, perfected his game.
Of course Cindy managed to escape. Her will to live was stronger than Hansen’s will to kill her.
I said to Cindy once, ‘Do you believe in God?’ And she said, ‘No, I don’t believe in God but I believe there’s a reason why I had to have such a horrible childhood so that maybe I would have the strength to stop this guy and stand up and do what I had to do.’Frozen Ground director, Scott Walker, Behind the Lens Online
Fate and destiny aside, let’s take Robert Hansen’s final ride step by step, starting with his arrival at Merrill Field, Cindy Paulson in tow.
- Hansen goes to his trunk and takes out the spare airplane seat, which is where he’ll place Cindy as they fly to the Knik. Hansen knows that seat is a problem: he’d just spent the evening at a friend’s house, trying to update the hinges so it’s easier for him to load victims into the plane.
- Spotting an opening while Hansen is at the plane, futzing with the spare seat, Cindy Paulson escapes from the rear of Hansen’s vehicle. The airplane seat is still a problem; the fix didn’t quite take; Hansen struggles to get it into place.
- As Cindy runs toward Fifth Avenue, in the direction of her motel, Robert Hansen does what can only be seen as instinctive: He chases her down the street with a gun. A guy in a pickup spots her. Spots her and Hansen, with his gun. He rescues Cindy.
- Ask yourself this: Why was Hansen chasing Cindy? Wouldn’t he have been better off if he’d just let her go? Just driven off, leaving the cops none the wiser? BUT HE DIDN’T. HE COULDN’T. His control-freak instincts got the better of him.
For a man like Hansen, everything was about being in command. When Cindy escaped, all his best efforts to contain her went to hell. He tried to fix things the only way he knew how. He was not, as they say, persuasive without holding a gun to someone’s head.
Here’s Robert Hansen talking about his control freak instincts during his 1984 confession:
“Now if I have complete of…control the… the situation there’s never any problem. I can come home, uh, with the person and, uh, that… that was the end of it. But if I didn’t control the sit… situation, uh, they’d either try to do something to get the firearm or… or… or just plain take off and, uh, try to leave. And, uh, then it would become a deal…”
“As long as they didn’t run away things went as I controlled it. I guess it was getting back to where I wanted to control things again where, I guess it made me feel masculine or powerful or in control of my life and I could ah, as long as things went fine, you know, that was it…”
I’ve consciously used this passage to bridge your imagination into the place where Hansen’s instincts unfolded “in the wild.” What happened with Cindy… could easily be the template for happened in the Bush. When Hansen lost control — when these women had the audacity to assert their right to live — Hansen went in the opposite direction. These women were bound to die.
Of course, there’s a fly in this ointment.
Because by the end of his killing spree, Hansen certainly had to know that no one could come back alive. The disappearance of so many dancers made him too “hot” for any other outcome. So whether he purposefully hunted them or not becomes… Academic. Becomes, in fact, a way for him to avoid facing the truth. They tried to escape, as surely he knew they would. They tried to go for the weapon, as surely he knew they would. Too bad. They’re dead.
And so it was that Hansen earned his other nickname. The troopers called him “chicken killer.” That’s what he really was. A chicken killer.
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