Four Days Before Halloween: Butcher, Baker Down

Police arrested Robert Chris Hansen on October 27, 1983, only four days from Halloween. One of his bakery employees had a deep and immediate response. Here was a man, after all, who’d cultivated the image of the conscientious neighbor and boss. And now, suddenly, something had changed.

“My mind is puzzled by it,” said Hansen bakery employee Robin Thompson. “But I’d still work here (for Hansen). I think he’s very nice. I’d never say anything against him.”

“Mr. Hansen is a very nice person, and he tried to help us out as best he could. This Halloween he was going to take his and my kids trick-or-treating. And he was going to have a Thanksgiving get-together and a Christmas party.”

Robin Thompson, Hansen Bakery employee
Hansen covers face (Courtesy Anchorage Times)

Bewildered on Halloween

Robin Thompson had company among the bewildered. According to a news article in the Anchorage Daily Times, at least one of his neighbors was also struggling with the pre-Halloween activities in their suburban cul-de-sac. That neighbor, James C. Robertson, lived across the street from the Hansen’s. “He’s been a real fine neighbor as far as I’m concerned,” Robertson said. “He seemed to be real quiet and resourceful. And he worked on several of the projects for the community.”

Not everyone was so sanguine. “He’s got a bad temper and he’d get mad over the littlest things,” one former employee — who asked not to be named — told a Times reporter. “He’s impatient.”

Bob’s Dad

One hint on how to unravel the apparent contradiction of a good boss, with a bad temper came from one of Bob’s former attorneys. James Gilmore had represented Bob when he assaulted real-estate secretary Susan Heppeard in 1972. Gilmore had successfully plea-bargained for reduced charges against his client.

Robert Hansen at his 1972 arrest
(courtesy Anchorage Times)

“Mr. Hansen, all through his growing-up period, worked closely with his father,” Gilmore said. “He comes from a family of bakers.” Gilmore added that Bob graduated from baking school in the Midwest, and had worked in his father’s bakery in Pocahontas.

In fact, Bob felt forced to work for his father’s bakery in Pocahontas. He felt exploited. Said his wages insulted his effort. Proclaimed that he felt his father’s wrath whenever he made a mistake. It was the old school of learning a trade. A devil’s apprenticeship. He’d taken on his father’s bad temper in the process.

A Hunter

Early on, moreover, news reporters started to make the link between Hansen’s prowess as a big-game hunter and the more deadly game he now seemed to be playing. Until his arrest Oct. 27, friends told the Times, Hansen spent as many weekends as possible hunting. But the article made a point of using Hansen’s own words was a way of describing his pursuit of a different kind of trophy.

“Shooting an animal with a rifle at 300 yards is one thing, but taking a trophy with a bow is a fantastic experience,” he told a Times sports writer in 1971.

“You have to work yourself within about 35 yards and that makes hunting more than just shooting the animal.”

Robert Hansen, 1971

Hansen’s more recent victims, all young women, were shot by a rifle. And at distances far less than 300 yards. The hunter, it seemed, had honed his techniques for a different kind of game. And he’d tried to rig it so he never lost.

Copyright Leland E. Hale (2022). All rights reserved.


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