What do you think of when you imagine Alaska? You conjure up a grand, snowy vision of unconquered terrain: vast, far and endless. It is as if the icy territory lasts forever in continuous isolation and secrecy.
Since the inception of Alaska, Americans who could be categorized as misfits and unconventional loners have taken advantage of the privacy and desolation of this state, and its sparsely populated lands.
In many areas of Alaska, you are completely alone: surrounded by wild, untouched nature. You are undisturbed by the burdens of being social and fitting in.
You are free and in your natural state…. if you can survive in such an intimidating environment, that is.
Robert Hansen was a serial killer who used the remoteness of Alaskan terrain to torture, rape and murder young women. Many of them were sex workers, as well as young girls struggling to survive the harshness of their environment.
Eklutna Annie is perhaps his most famous victim. She is a total mystery; unidentified for over 40 years without even a glimmer of clue to who she may have been.
Annie is one of Hansen’s earliest victims, and was killed anywhere from November 1979 to June 1980.
Electricians found her badly decomposed body in a shallow grave, buried alongside a set of power lines that stretched down South Eklutna Lake Road, approximately a year after her death. Her body had been eaten away at by wild animals (particularly bears), and was left unrecognizable and in mostly skeletal condition.
Investigators tried their best to create a profile of Eklutna Annie from the remnants of her body. She was a short girl with a small frame, between 4 ft 11″ and 5 ft 3″ tall. She was thought to be anywhere from 16 to 25 years old, and had auburn/strawberry blonde hair.
She was thought to be white, but with a degree of Native American DNA. She wore a light colored sleeveless knit sweater, a brown leather jacket, jeans, and red knee-high heeled boots with a nylon zipper on the side.
Judging from her apparel, Anchorage PD officer Maxine Farrell assumed that Eklutna Annie was either a topless dancer or a prostitute. Hansen himself claimed this, but he seemed to say this about all of his victims.
Farrell was mocked by other officers for her theories:
“Shortly after that I got a report of another one missing, she was a street prostitute and I thought this is a prostitute missing, so that would match up with Eklutna Annie. After that, almost every month I had two or three women missing. That’s when I started asking questions.
I got the missing persons reports and I began to get information about relatives and information about jewelry they wore. I was a psychology major, so I knew a lot of these serial killers kept souvenirs. I finally made a spreadsheet of it …
By the time I got finished, I had about 10 girls. I went to my superiors, advised them that there was a serial killer because of the number of girls I was collecting as missing persons and they laughed at me and said no, you’re wrong. They thought I was stupid. Stupid woman thinking there’s a serial killer. I wasn’t stupid.”
Just as Farrell had claimed, officers would eventually discover that Hansen actually did keep souvenirs of his victims.
Officers also pondered whether she was a runaway from California, Washington, or Canada- a hitchhiker who was not originally from Alaska. Hansen, however, said she was from Kodiak, and spoke to him about living there with her family.
No ID was found on the victim, and neither did she match any missing persons reports. Who was this mysterious woman? The secret died with Robert Hansen. But then again, even he claimed to be unaware of her identity.
According to his story, he had picked up Eklutna Annie from a bar and given her a lift. He told her that he lived in Muldoon, and that he would give her a ride home. As Hansen sped past Muldoon Road, she grew suspicious and afraid, and asked him to let her out of the vehicle.
Hansen relayed the story to cops while in custody:
”I just pointed the gun and I tell her, I says, ‘Now look, if you do exactly what I tell you and don’t give me any problem whatsoever, there’s going to be no — you won’t get hurt any way, shape or form.”
But that wasn’t how it went down.
During this ride of terror, Hansen’s car got stuck on a muddy road, and he told her to get out of the car to help him. She took this as her chance to escape.
As she tried to run away, Hansen pursued and overpowered her; grabbing her by her long hair. He claimed this was when she pulled out a knife from her purse, and attempted to stab him in self defense. To the very end, she fought for her life.
Hansen managed to tear the knife away from her, and stabbed the unknown woman in the back until she was lifeless. During the struggle, as the terrified woman realized she was going to die, she screamed out “You’re going to kill me!” in hysterical fear.
For all her bravery, she could not survive the scourge of her deranged killer. When reflecting back on Eklutna Annie’s murder, Robert Hansen said it gave him a sense of sadistic pleasure.
There was nothing he hated more than a woman who fought back against him, and nothing gave him more satisfaction than subduing and killing a wily prey.
During his 1984 interrogation by police, Hansen claimed Annie was his very first victim. However, this seems unlikely as he is suspected of killing even more women before her.
Who was this sick man?
Robert Hansen was born in 1939, and grew up a shy, skinny, nerdy kid in Iowa; suffering from a stutter and chronic acne. Like his Danish immigrant father, he grew up to be a baker. Later on the media would grant him the moniker “The Butcher Baker.” He killed anywhere from 17 to 21 women until his capture, maybe even more.
His humiliating high school years, filled with rejection and inceldom, would cause him to hate women with a passion as he grew into an adult. These misogynistic tendencies would eventually become violent.
At the age of 20, he lost his virginity to a prostitute while in the army.
At the age of 21, Hansen attempted to burn a school bus to gain vengeance for being a loser in high school. A series of petty crimes followed, which then escalated to murder in the 1970s.
Although Hansen had a track record of kidnapping, raping and abusing women, police did not suspect him of murder for many years; which allowed him to easily kill dozens of women for a decade.
Hansen was a sadist and psychopath who took refuge in Alaska to torture and murder women in a more private setting. He drove women out to remote areas, forced them to strip naked, and shot them as they ran through the snowy wilderness.
It thrilled him to hunt live victims, and he often tortured them for days before the final coup de grace. He even had a private plane which he used to fly out victims to distant cabins where they could never be found.
Hansen was finally captured and imprisoned in 1983, after one of his victims escaped alive and spilled the beans on his disgusting antics. Although he was finally caught and locked up like the animal he was, Eklutna Annie remained unidentified.
Usually, Hansen kept his victim’s possessions as souvenirs- especially their jewelry. Not in Eklutna Annie’s case: it was one of the rare crimes in which he left the jewelry alone, most likely because she was one of his earliest murders and he was then an inexperienced killer.
She had on her a plethora of beautiful and unique handmade jewelry: a copper bracelet with three turquoise stones, a heart shaped pendant, gold hoop earrings, a white shell ring, and a gold plated Timex wristwatch. She also had a pack of Salem brand matches in her pocket.
Some believe that Eklutna Annie’s jewelry was of Native origin, but authorities were never able to trace any of it back to its source. It is also worth noting that most Native jewelry is made from silver, and not gold as she was wearing.
From her jewelry, you get the impression she was an interesting woman with exquisite taste in jewelry. That morning, she had dressed herself with care and attention, never knowing it would be her last day on earth.
So if Eklutna Annie was well dressed, wearing distinctive jewelry, and a possible topless dancer/sex worker in Alaska- why didn’t anyone ever come forward to identify her? Officer Maxine Farrell had some theories:
“The fact that a prime source of information in these cases was women who worked the streets was the first obstacle. These women have very little trust in the police, which is understandable given the fact that most of the time we’re adversaries. As a result, most were reluctant to talk.
The second obstacle was the constant movement of these women. In a year’s time, one of these women might work in a club, then out on the street, then in a massage parlor. She might also work the circuit and move city to city… those circuits tracked from Seattle to Anchorage to Honolulu. And after all that upheaval, this same woman might get sick of the routine and quit without giving notice…
A third obstacle was the fact that many of these women used stage names. Investigators would talk to a woman on the street or in a club, who’d tell them she had worked with a woman named ‘Tania’ a few months before — and hadn’t seen her in a while. In checking out the lead, investigators would go to some of the other clubs in the Anchorage area. At ten different clubs, they’d find 15 different ‘Tania’s.’ So which Tania was that, anyway?”
This is exactly what Hansen, and other serial killers of his ilk count on. They victimize sex workers and transient women, as it is often more difficult for authorities to identify and search for them.
Hansen believed his victims were not worthy of life because they dwelled in prostitution and vice. He used excuses to justify his cruel murders. Even during his confession in which he admitted to killing Eklutna Annie, he tried to blame her by claiming she had pulled a knife on him, therefore she deserved to die.
In his twisted mind, the women he killed were nothing but his pawns. But this is untrue. This woman he killed belonged somewhere, had a family, dreams, hopes and goals. And there are many of us out there who want to find out who she was in her lifetime.
Although investigators possess Eklutna Annie’s DNA, and have tested it against other suspected murder victims, none have ever matched up so far. The case has gone cold, to the point where we can only pray that something substantial eventually turns up.
Although she was killed near the small village of Eklutna, which has only about 70 inhabitants; she was buried in Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, about a half an hour’s drive away. Her grave is simply marked “Jane Doe/Died 1980.”
Occasionally, visitors leave flowers on her gravestone. Sometimes, Alaskans even hold reenactments where actresses assume the role of Eklutna Annie and describe the limited details we have about her. But most importantly- she is still remembered and thought about, despite remaining nameless for over 40 years.