Return To The Beginning

We’ve been traveling a bit lately, getting out of the COVID doldrums. Now that we’ve made our joyful and relaxed return, I’ve got a few thoughts to share, mostly odds and ends. And since this is a Robert Hansen blog, it’s mostly odds. We’ll start with top of mind stuff before moving to the red meat.

CNN/HLN documentary on Robert Hansen: I’m not a huge fan of dramatization, but a light touch is perfection. Well done, CNN/HLN. Also, it’s pretty clear that the folks with actual memories of Hansen’s deadly reign are… getting pretty damn old. So, in a way, the future starts now. Or started yesterday. I’ll return to that theme in a minute.


And… I’ll admit to holding off on watching this one. Being in southern Utah made it that much harder. But time-shifting is the reality of the day, so I caught it two weeks later. And loved it!

One of the best parts for me was hearing new voices and getting new perspectives. Shout out to Linda at HLN for all her great work! Examples? Larry Bivins describing Hansen as “weird, but not weird weird” (or words to that effect). Seeing Ron Rice after so many years, still telling the truth about the monster who pretended to be a man. And, yeah, I don’t mind a little screen time myself…

But my favorite segment was Part II, “The Girls Who Got Away.

With true-crime there is always — always — an emphasis on those who didn’t make it. That comes with the turf. But when we talk about Robert Hansen, it’s the women who escaped, who lived to tell the tale, that were key to putting a stop to the madness. This segment got it right.

Cindy Paulson

And hearing Cindy Paulson’s teenage mix of bravado and fear never fails to send shivers up my spine.

What Happened in Craig: Part of my distraction lately is some movement in getting What Happened In Craig on-screen. As in we (me and my publisher) signed a contract with a production company. That’s an important step, but only the first of many if this is thing is going to happen.

On Return: Friends in the Right Places: Seeing Larry Bivins on the CNN/HLN special reminded me that it was he who provided Bob a crucial alibi during the investigation into Beth van Zanten’s murder. And as he recently reminded Linda at HLN, “Bob didn’t come to me; I came to him” (with the alibi). That is, in my view, pretty tight. The timing on that December night in 1971 just doesn’t fit Beth’s kidnapping narrative.

Of course, it also made me wonder… In 1983, when Hansen first contacted Cindy Paulson, he’d been at John Sumrall’s house, fixing an airplane seat. And Bob, true to form, didn’t go straight home. No. He took a detour along Fourth Avenue, where all the streetwalkers were. Where Cindy Paulson was.

Was there a similar route that would have taken Hansen to Beth van Zanten’s location, on her way to the Bi-Lo store, that bitter cold December evening? Remember that Hansen didn’t need much of an excuse to wander over to Fourth Avenue and the hookers. And what’s enticing about the route below is the apparent ease of Hansen’s presumptive return route. Out and back.

Out and back unless, that is, something or someone distracts him.


We are, of course, in highly speculative territory. Beth left her house around 9:00 p.m. Hansen was at the Bivin household until 10:30 p.m. How far off would both times have to be for Hansen’s path to intersect Beth’s? What if 10:30 p.m. was 9:30 p.m.? What if she was spotted much later than 9:00 p.m.? There were witness reports placing Beth in the vicinity as late as 11:00 p.m. on December 22nd.

With those variables in place, a fatal rendezvous between Hansen and VanZanten no longer seems impossible. Improbable, yes, but not impossible.

Copyright Leland E. Hale (2021). All rights reserved.


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Order my latest book, “What Happened In Craig,” HERE and HERE. True crime from Epicenter Press about Alaska‚Äôs Worst Unsolved Mass Murder.


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