Sgt. Glenn Flothe’s Hansen search warrant was, as he once told me, a history lesson. One where he wanted to be able to say, “Your Honor, let me tell you a story.” He started that story in 1971, with the attempted kidnapping of a young real-estate secretary in Anchorage. He ended it with pointed references to psychiatrists who opined that Robert C. Hansen fit the profile of a repeat murderer. Or, in the current parlance, a serial killer.
Among those Flothe spoke to was FBI agent John E. Douglas of the FBI’s Criminal Personality Profiling Program. The trooper specifically referenced Douglas in his search warrant. I quote from that document below.
“Affiant had Special Agent Douglas review the materials above described in this case; Special Agent Douglas stated that the suspect in this case is not inconsistent with the profile of a serial killer. Douglas also stated to affiant that such a person would commonly keep a ‘stash’ of mementos derived from/taken from/concerning his victims. It is Special Agent Douglas’ experience that such a ‘stash’ would be kept somewhere near to hand with easy access to the perpetrator of the crimes. Also, it has been Douglas’ experience that the profile of a serial killer would conclude that a ‘Rape/Murder Kit’ would be kept near to hand including items such as restraints, blindfold, etc.”
Searching Hansen’s House
The search of Hansen’s house turned up some of the very items Douglas described. Mementoes of his kills. And two aviation maps which ultimately revealed a darker intent. Yes, they soon discovered, there were marks on those maps. Marks that pointed to Hansen gravesites.
In the hands of Hansen lawyer Fred Dewey, however, the collective assertions of a John E. Douglas and the psychiatrists presented a different kind of opportunity.
Dewey’s most potent claim was that the repeat murderer designation was improper. Everything seized during the search should be barred.
Police had already questioned Hansen about the rape and kidnapping, Dewey noted. The police hadn’t arrested him. He added that Hansen had consented to a search of his house and vehicles at that time. Nothing linked him to that crime.
Dewey also took issue with the claims of Douglas and psychiatrist Dr. Irwin Rothrock. It was Rothrock who noted that “Hansen appears to be an impulsive actor as reflected in his shoplifting behavior… [that] Hansen seems to pick victims he would view as inferior to himself… [and] serial murderers are often times avid hunters.”
Flothe’s use of the repeat murderer profile, said Dewey, did not adequately establish probable cause. There was insufficient reason to believe evidence of rape and murder was in Hansen’s house. Instead, Dewey insisted, the warrant was “used to excite the prejudice of the judge.”
No Carte Blanche
“The government should not be given ‘carte blanche’ to search a person’s home,” Dewey declared, “and when a search turns up nothing, be permitted to return four months later with no new information in the interim and ‘re-do’ the search.”
It was up to prosecutors to counter Fred Dewey’s claims which, a casual observer might note, characterized the Hansen search as a witch hunt. Witch hunts were precisely what prohibitions against illegal search and seizure were to protect against. There was more. Dewey pointed out that Alaska case law prohibited use of prior bad acts to show a person’s propensity to commit additional crimes. Hansen’s arson conviction, he pointed out, was 20 years old.
All that documentation in Flothe’s history lesson was now at risk. And so was their entire case. They didn’t need a repeat performance of their past failures.
Copyright Leland E. Hale (2022). All rights reserved.
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