We Called Her Eklutna Annie

Mind of a Monster, Episode I

With Episode 1 of the Mind of a Monster podcast, host Dr. Michelle Ward takes us on a guided tour of the oil rush days of Anchorage. It was a time when money from black gold was inexorably taking over the State. Trouble was not far behind; its first name was Eklutna.

It’s a truism of boom times that the first ones to arrive are the young men who materially benefit from the riches being taken out of the ground. Right behind them are the young women who come to entertain — and service — them. One sign of trouble came in 1980, when police were called to a remote Alaska Native village just north of Anchorage. Among those answering the call was Anchorage Police Detective Maxine Farrell.

What they had was a body. From the ephemera — her jewelry, her clothing — Farrell concluded the victim was either a sex worker or a dancer in the clubs along “the track” in Anchorage. Lacking a name or identity, the woman soon became known at Eklutna Annie. She was named after the nearby village. Even now, she has no other name.

It was Farrell who unabashedly identified an ever growing problem. Over time, there was a steady stream of reports coming to her office. Reports of other girls — dancers and sex workers — mysteriously gone missing.

Maxine Farrell (courtesy ID)

Too Close For Comfort

Farrell insisted there was a common theme. She eventually had seven women on her list. She thought they were all dead at the hands of a serial killer.

I was talking about Eklutna Annie to some journalist, I think it was the Anchorage Times, and I said, “we got a lot of missing girls and I got a feeling that maybe there’s a serial killer out there.” Well, that got in the news right away. My superiors went crazy… So they made me say, “I don’t think it’s that… we have missing girls all the time.”

Det. Maxine Farrell, APD Ret.
Photo: Sherry Morrow

I can personally attest to the skepticism that some local cops entertained about Maxine Farrell’s prescient assessment. Even in 1984, on my first trip to Anchorage — several months after Robert Hansen had confessed and been sentenced — there was a palpable grumble among a few of them. The attitude was, “Farrell didn’t know what she was doing.” It was, I thought, a sanctimonious dismissal. I’d done my homework. I knew better. But I was far from knowing everything.

End of a Dream

One of the realities of book writing is that you must find the arc to your story and stick to it. In a story like “Butcher, Baker” there’s an abundance of detail. Some of it — too much of it? — didn’t make it onto the final work. Part of that is attributable to things I just didn’t know at the time. Take John Daily, whom Dr. Ward interviews at length. He was one of two cops, hunting moose along the Knik River, who found a body in the fall of 1982.

Knik River location, Sherry Morrow body (graphic copyright Leland E. Hale)

I knew the part about how he and another cop came across a moon boot along the Knik, just as they were putting down for the evening. Knew that they soon identified a body. That the body belonged to Sherry Morrow. What I suspected, unasked, was his passion for all things Alaska.

We’re just like a lot of people, chasing the Alaska dream. I love to fish, hunt, fly, boat. I love to get out and explore. One of the sayings is, “the good thing about Anchorage is it’s really close to Alaska.”

APD Investigator John Daily

What I didn’t know was that, at the time, Daily had just bought a parcel of land along the Knik. That he planned to build a home there.

“I mean, I had young kids and a wife,” Daily tells Ward. “And it kind of hits home, something like this, we’re out here, this is where I chose to live, in this area. I’d just bought 24 acres, right on the river, probably within a quarter mile of where this occurred. So all of a sudden you’re thinking, ‘Well, your little Alaska dream… isn’t.'”

Tune In Now

I won’t add more because, really, you should check out the podcast for yourself. This is great story telling that adds a lot to the base story Walter Gilmour and I first told more than thirty years ago.

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Dr. Michelle Ward has a PhD in Clinical Neuroscience/Psychology from USC. She has served as an expert trial consultant in criminal cases involving a multitude of violent murderers. Her podcast series features her own personal and professional insights, as well as comments from family and friends of both the killer and the victim.

Copyright Leland E. Hale (2024). All rights reserved.

Leland E. Hale

Purchase Butcher, Baker

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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