Of Robert Hansen’s 12 Known Victims, Only One Is Unknown
The hunt for an Alaskan serial killer has finally been identified after nearly 40 years of genetic ancestry and a DNA match.
Robin Pelkey, who was 19 at the time, was killed in the early 1980s by Robert Hansen, better known as the “Butcher Baker”. For 37 years, she was known only as “Horseshoe Harriet,” one of a dozen or more of Hansen’s victims.
“I want to thank all the soldiers, investigators and analysts who have worked diligently on this case over the past 37 years,” Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell said in a statement. “Without her hard work and tenacity, Ms. Pelke’s identity might never have been known.”
There was no identification on the body of sex worker Pelkey when investigators found her. Hansen told investigators that he had taken her to Horseshoe Lake in a small plane, murdered her and discarded the body, but knew nothing about her.
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Pelkey was buried at Anchorage Municipal Cemetery as an unidentified, but investigators exhumed her body in 2014 when Hansen died in prison at the age of 75.
A bone sample provided the DNA, which soldiers used to build a profile in April and add to a public access gene database. Troopers found several close matches and identified close relatives based in Arkansas and Alaska.
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A relative in Arkansas provided DNA that allowed soldiers to positively identify Pellkey, and his family was notified in September. No one could explain why her parents did not report her missing at that time.
Henson kidnapped women – many of them sex workers – in the woods north of Anchorage when the city’s population boomed due to the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
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Glenn Floth, a retired state soldier who helped capture Hansen, said during a 2008 interview that Hansen began targeting sex workers when he learned they were harder to track and less likely to miss.
Hansen was convicted of killing four women, but confessed to committing more murders. He escorted investigators to a location north of Anchorage where he reported that he had buried 17 of his victims.
Troopers excavated the remains of eight women, allowing them to work to identify a total of 12 of Hansen’s victims: only 11 have now been identified, the last of which is known as “Eklutna Annie”. It is believed to be Hansen’s first victim, discovered near Lake Eklutna.
Thanks to the genetic genealogy effort that helped identify the pelkie, soldiers are hopeful that the final victim may be identified sooner rather than later.
Alaska State Troopers cold case investigator Randy McPherron told the Associated Press that the process could take up to a year.