Prosecutor: Serial Killer’s Plea Deal Was A ‘Grave Mistake’

The murder map, with photos of a selection of Hansen’s victims with string pointing to where they were found, and crime scene photos

Investigation Discovery The murder map, with photos of a selection of Hansen’s victims with string pointing to where they were found, and crime scene photos

Serial killer Robert Hansen is known to be responsible for 17 murders in the 1970s and 1980s in Anchorage, Alaska. But he is suspected to be responsible for at least four more. Ahead of Investigation Discovery’s special on Hansen, The Butcher Baker: Mind of a Monster on September 2 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, here’s what you need to know about Hansen’s known victims’ list and the ones he is suspected of killing.

The Victims

After his arrest, Hansen led authorities to over a dozen gravesites. His known victims include Roxanne Eastland (body never found), Joanna Messina, Lisa Futrell, Sherry Morrow, Andrea Altiery (body never found), Sue Luna, Paula Goulding, Malai Larsen, DeLynn Frey, Teresa Watson, Angela Feddern, Tamera Pederson, and two women whose identities were never determined that became known as “Eklutna Annie” and “Horseshoe Harriet” based on where their bodies were found.

There were three women that Hansen denied killing but whose graves were marked on his aviation map: Ceilia Van Zanten, Megan Emerick, and Mary Thill.

There was also one survivor who managed to escape from Hansen and give authorities a detailed description of him. Her name is Cindy Paulson. She was a prostitute who was kidnapped and raped before managing to escape, but when she went to the police, Hansen evaded arrest because the lead investigator didn’t believe her story.

Paulson’s accusations did get the attention of Gregg Baker with the Anchorage Police Department, who said in the Investigation Discovery special that he just “had a feeling that Paulson was telling the truth.”

“I was sure [Hansen] was involved. Because of that, I was sure he was lying to me. But I learned early in my years of law enforcement, if somebody will lie to you, that’s the best thing in the world. One, they can’t remember the lies, and two, lies are easy to prove false,” said Baker.

“So we went over to his residence … we went down and there was a recreation room. There was a couch there, there was a bear rug on the floor. Everything was like Cindy Paulson said it would be. We didn’t find any physical evidence, but I still thought Robert would probably be arrested. But then the investigator said that he believed Mr. Hansen and that the story was probably more likely that Cindy had jumped the price on him and he refused to pay it.”

Hansen’s First Run-in With the Law Happened in 1972

Before the series of events with Paulson that ultimately led to Hansen’s capture, he was brought up on charges for kidnapping and assaulting Patricia Roberts and Susan Heppeard. But he made a plea deal for Heppeard to get the charges dropped on Roberts’ kidnapping and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Frank Rothschild, the assistant district attorney who prosecuted Hansen’s case in the mid-1980s, said in the ID special that he thinks the prosecutor in 1972 made a “grave mistake” by letting Hansen plead his charges down.

“I think it was a grave mistake. I think if you’d found any reasonable jury, they would have found him guilty and he would’ve gotten 20 years in jail and a lot of other women would still be alive if they would’ve done that,” said Rothschild, adding that he thinks Hansen learned from the Heppeard and Roberts attacks not to target upstanding women in the community because they were more likely to be believed.

“I think he learned from those early cases and the thing he learned is choose your victims. Don’t choose nice girls. Don’t choose people who might be believed. Choose prostitutes, choose go-go dancers. Choose your victim so you will maximize the likelihood that the case won’t even be handled, you won’t even have to deal with it, no one will believe it,” said Rothschild.

Hansen Got a Plea Deal and Was Only Charged in Four Murders

After his arrest in 1983, Hansen faced overwhelming evidence, so he pleaded guilty, but only to four murders in order to avoid 17 different trials. Part of his plea deal was to lead investigators to the bodies they had not yet found. He then pleaded guilty to the murders of Sherry Morrow, Joanna Messina, Eklutna Annie, and Paula Goulding.

He was then sentenced to 461 years plus life in prison without the possibility of parole. He died in prison in 2014.

ID’s Serial Killer Week has two more specials: The Serial Killer Among Us: Phillip Jablonski on Thursday, September 3, and BTK: Chasing a Serial Killer on Friday, September 4, both at 9 p.m. on Investigation Discovery.

READ NEXT: Serial Killer’s Ex Thinks There Were More Victims