Finding Agency: Another Look At Hansen’s Victims

I cannot stop thinking about the persistent reports that Hansen released women in the Bush and hunted them down like animals. I freely admit that characterization always gets my back up, even though there is more than a little truth to the assertion. Recently, I finally clicked into the reason I fight that characterization. It’s simple, really. To present Bob Hansen as the indefatigable hunter of women is to remove agency from the women he kidnapped, raped and killed.

Sherry Morrow’s grave (courtesy AST)

I am perhaps an unlikely feminist, but characterizing Hansen as the hunter of women is to say: these women were mere bits of protoplasm, subject to Bob Hansen’s whims. They didn’t fight back. They didn’t try to run. Instead, somehow, Bob says, “jump” and they say, “how high?” It’s just a continuation of the same sexist crap that helped create a Bob Hansen in the first place. 

Evidence of Agency

I can cite at least six instances where, in fact, the women he wanted to kill showed extreme agency. Cindy Paulson. Patty Roberts. Susan Heppeard. Christy Hayes. Eklutna Annie. The 1975 report from the woman who revealed her abduction and rape to Cheryl Messer. All of them, save one, survived. So on that score, at least, Bob Hansen’s record was for shit. These women had agency. Had the will to survive.


And, to be sure, the teller of these tales are all (or almost all) men. Who among them were out there when these women were killed? Between the lines, these men seem to be saying, “they’re just stupid whores.” Bob Hansen could have his way with them.

I reject that. It most certainly is not in the written record of Hansen’s confession. And at least some of the evidence says otherwise. 

Christy Hayes escapes

And, yes, Glenn Flothe did tell me that, toward the end, Hansen was not only shooting the women, but stabbing them in a ritual madness. That, moreover, a number of these women were found far from Hansen’s Knik River landing site. Certainly this speaks to his darker reality as time started running out on him. But to my pea brain, that doesn’t negate the agency of these women.

Some Details

One point of logic here. Actually two. First, was Robert Hansen a hunter when he chased Cindy Paulson down Fifth Avenue at gunpoint? Or a panicked little boy, desperately trying to corral his errant victim? You don’t have to answer right away.

Sherry Morrow aka “Georgia”

Second, Sherry Morrow was found in a shallow grave, near a service road to the Knik River. I know. I’ve been there. She was shot in the back. Was Hansen hunting her? Or did she run in a panic, in a desperate attempt to save her life, and then get shot as she ran? We’ll never know. But there’s one tidbit in Sherry’s story that makes me lean toward the latter. 

An Ace bandage was wrapped around Sherry’s head. She was at least partially blindfolded. Without her glasses, she was at a distinct disadvantage. What kind of hunt was that? Not one that makes Robert Hansen a hunter of women. Not even a hunter at all. Not that day. That day he was a cheater and a loser. Always was. Always will be.

Well, there it is. Maybe I can finally put this one to rest. At the very least, it’s a good day when I can put my finger on something that’s been bothering me for a long, long time.

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


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2 thoughts on “Finding Agency: Another Look At Hansen’s Victims”

  1. These woman that were abducted, raped, hunted and murdered were not “just stupid whores”. My sister Sherry was a loving daughter, sister, an auntie. She was a dancer trying to make a living. She was lured to her death by a predator. Almost 40 years later Sherry’s loss is still felt by a very large family. She will always be missed and never forgotten by her family.

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