Miles To Gilgo Beach

Two crimes, thousands of miles apart. Two crimes held together by similarities. They say that when your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And so it is with me. The crime spree of serial killer Robert Hansen is my hammer. And two recently surfaced crimes are my nails.

Close To Home

Highway 99 in Seattle is infamous for the johns that cruise to find sex workers. Known by people who work there as “The Track” — an evocative name for an area where cars go back and forth in search of ladies of the night — Highway 99 has seen more than its share of tragedies. The most infamous is its southern iteration, also known as International Blvd. near the Sea-Tac airport. It is here that the Green River Killer plied his deadly trade.

Its northern sister — Aurora Avenue — also has its share of sex workers. It was along this track that, only recently, a man posed as an undercover police officer, kidnapped a woman and drove her hundreds of miles to Oregon. He then locked her in a cinder block cell until she escaped.

Seattle Sex-Worker Held in Oregon (courtesy FBI)

Robert Hansen also kidnapped at least one woman and held her in confinement. Not as elaborate, it served nonetheless to keep his captive immobilized and subject to his whims. I’m not certain which one is scarier, but that’s beside the point. In both cases, the kidnapped woman escaped and lived to tell the tale. I’m hopeful the outcomes will also be similar.

Lots of jail time.

Robert Hansen’s Den, Anchorage, AK

Across the Universe

Along Gilgo Beach in Long Island, New York, meanwhile, a grisly cache of bodies have been showing up since 2009. It’s a remote stretch of water and waves, far from the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. And yet…

Gilgo Beach, Long Island, New York

This place is strangely similar — at least its sense of remoteness — to the banks of the Knik River where Robert Hansen murdered — and stashed — many of his victims. This symmetry is not coincidental. Serial killers need places that are away from suspicious eyes. Places where the victim is helpless and can’t call for help.

Hansen gravesite along Knik River

Are True Crime Docs Guidebooks?

All of this leaves me wondering. When writers like me detail the intricacies of a serial killer’s M.O., the words and deeds are out there, for anyone to copy. Even with miles between them, there is a sameness to some of these crimes. I’d like to think that the nature of the crime itself drives the similarity. It’s certainly true that the FBI has developed eerily predictive profiles of these men — and they’re mostly men. Profiles, by their very nature, depend on similarities. Miles of similarities.

But I’m not content with that characterization, even as it overwhelms me with its gravity. Am I missing something? Yeah. The obsession, it seems, leads in only one direction: With the how outrunning the why.

Gilgo Beach Victim Map (partial, courtesy Atiru)
Robert Hansen’s Knik River Map
(partial map: AST; graphic: Leland E. Hale)

Last Word

But why? Why oh why oh why?

Copyright Leland E. Hale (2023). All rights reserved.

Leland E. Hale

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


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