Francis Wayne Alexander (Gacy)
Wendy Stephens (Ridgway)
Robin Pelkey (Hansen)
John Wanye Gacy Victim is Body #5 is Francis Wayne Alexander
First we are going to talk about John Wayne Gacy, and one of the final six unidentified victims left in his wake. I mean… how do I even attempt to do a synopsis of Gacy? We all know him, we all know him too well. I know I’m going to leave out stuff here, but we’re going to plug along on this anyway.
POS Gacy was born in 1942 in Chicago, and didn’t not have the best childhood. His dad was a drunk and verbally and physically abusive. Gacy got out of the house as soon as he could, and got married for the first time when he was 22. His new father-in-law bought a few Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise stores shortly after the wedding and Gacy would be the manager, settling himself and his new wife in Waterloo, IL. When he wasn’t slinging chicken, he and his wife were hanging out in a swinger’s crowd… but he was also branching out, and found pleasure in being with other men. Problem was, soon enough, these other men were actually boys. So within 4yr of getting married, and by the time he was 26yo, Gacy was a convicted pedophile. He was sentenced to 10yrs for sodomizing a teenage boy, but only served 18mo…. Because… what? It was the 60s and sexual assaults weren’t taken seriously? He behaved in prison? Probably a bit of both.
Once out of prison, POS Gacy went back to Chicago to be with family. At some point he was divorced from Wife #1 and in 1971 got himself Wife #2. He kept her thinking he was a heterosexual until 1975, when he pretty much told her, I’m bi, and I don’t think I’m going to sex with you anymore. He would, however, have sex with other people. He’d be out at all hours of the night, bring young men - underage boys - home to hang out in the garage, and she couldn’t do anything about it. They agreed to divorce and she finally moved out in the spring of 1976. It was at this time that Gacy began his murder spree. The longest he would go between victims was about 4mo, but most the time, it was monthly, or even 2 or 3 in one month.
Now this is not how all murder took place, but I’m going to give you jist of it, the general run down of how they went. Gacy’s ploy was to employ young men in his construction business, and the boys ranged in ages from 14-21. These weren’t like actual regular long term jobs that these kids had, though. They were more like, “I’ll give you some work if you come by next week” type jobs. They might last a few months, but you’re weren’t working for Gacy as a steady employee. If he wasn’t going for one of his day workers, he would pick victims up off the streets, maybe offering a job, or soliciting them for sex. Either way, they were lured back to his house - remember, he’s divorced now, got the house all to himself - offering a night of drinking and drugs. Once there, he’d suggest they pop in a porno tape, one thing would lead to another, and they’d have sex. After that, or sometimes even the next morning, Gacy would pretend he was going to show them a magic trick - how to get out of handcuffs - and once they were cuffed, they were doomed. Gacy favored strangulation or asphyxiation as his murder device of choice, but had not problems wield a knife if it came to it. And all the while, he is performing as clown, locally free of charge, at charity events and visiting hospitalized kids. Oh, AND he hung around Democratic political party clubs and get togethers, and elected President of his local chapter… all his, during his killing spree from 1976-1978.
It was December of 1978 when he got sloppy and chose the wrong family to fuck with. After the Murder of Robert Piest - who btw he killed on his mohter’s birthday, knowing his mother was waiting for him to show up for her birthday dinner! - we finally get to see some action from the Chicago PD. They had been tipped off about Gacy here and there, but victims claiming sexual assault wouldn’t show up to court, or a family complaining of a missing son just wasn’t convincing enough for police to go knocking on Gacy’s door to answer some questions. If they did come knocking, he would just tell them, “huh, the kid was here, but he left… said he was running away.” And then the cops would be like, “ok, thanks. Have a good night, Mr. Gacy.”
But in Robert’s case, his family was not having any of it, and finally the PD decided to look at Gacy when Gacy wasn’t around. As in, you know, investigate him and his activities and the accusations made about him over the years… maybe they hold some water? They ended up getting a search warrant for Gacy’s house, and found some suspicious stuff - like multiple drivers licenses of young men! - but didn’t get anything concrete enough to arrest him on. They conducted a shit-ton of surveillance on him - and he knew it, and he taunted them about it. He’d even invited them into his house to chat. And this house would go from stinking of decomposing human flesh and just stinking. While inside the house one day, a detective caught a whiff of what he knew was a dead body. They searched the house, and under it, and the rest is history.
Police would find 26 bodies in various states of decomposition in the crawl space under his house. Bodies piled on top of bodies. Some wrapped up, some laid directly in the dirt. Three other victims were found in other places on the property, and then another four were found in the Des Plaines River, at the admission of Gacy himself. All in all, he would be convicted of 33 murders, and sentenced to death at the end of his trial in 1980. Gacy was put to death by lethal injection in 1994, and I can’t say any of us are sad about it.
So when they started digging up the bodies, imagine you’re digging for coins, right? You’re going to dig here, you find a fifty cent piece, you put it out, you dig a little deeper, you find another one, so you dig even deeper. You’ll also dig around the top of the earth too, making your original dig site a wider circle, and then fifty cent pieces will be uncovered as you go. So when you find that first coin, you know it’s not the first one that was put there… it’s likely one of the more recent ones…. The older ones are deeper. And they had a number of these digging sites because Gacy had actually drawn them a rough sketch of the crawl space to map out where the bodies were buried - the whole of the crawl space covered the whole house. There were bodies under all the rooms in the house. Pick a room, there was at least one body under it.
Twenty victims of POS Gacy were identified from 1978-1986. After that, police and their forensics teams had no other avenues to try to identify the remaining 13. Then in 2011, science came around and they resumed their efforts. More victims were identified, and by 2021, they had whittled the John Doe count down to six. One of them was Body #5, meaning, he was the 5th body recovered by police and their excavation team.
Body #5 was buried a whole yard under the dirt in the crawl space. So since he was buried so deep into the ground, the theory is that he was the first to get put down there. But I wonder if that’s true… Just because you’re the deepest, doesn’t have to mean you’re the first. In fact, if you go by the timeline, he is the 10th victim to be buried under there. So nine others were there already, just in different places. Maybe at that point Gacy wanted to have to dig less for each new body, so he decided to dig deeper so he didn't have to make more room for- ok ok you get it.
Body #5 was believed to have been killed in late 1976 or early 1977, based on the identified victims that surrounded him and when they had gone missing. In 2019, the Cook County Sheriff's Dept called up the DNA Doe project and asked them for help in giving back the names of the six remaining John Does. #5 had a tooth still attached to his skull, and he was chosen to be the first set of remains to be investigated through the family tree. At this point, it had been 41 years since he had been taken from under that house, but possibly 43 years from when he was killed.
Once they got the profile into the GEDmatch database, the DDP says they were able to find second cousin matches - which, as we know from prior episodes, is actually a pretty good start! You get that user to give you his or her grandparent’s sibling’s names, you’re golden. Now, the DDP’s page says a possible name was produced relatively quickly, but we know now that it took two years to do it. I think this is because of the lab needing the time to do the DNA extraction. In any case, just three weeks ago, the Cook County Sheriff’s dept announced that the fifth victim of John Wayne Gacy’s that was found in the crawl space under his house was Francis Wayne Alexander.
His family called him Wayne, and was born in North Carolina. But by the time he was raised up, the family had moved to NY. He got married before he turned 20, but the marriage was short-lived and they got divorced after a few months. After that, Wayne decided to try out Chicago and headed there in early 1975. He would call family, and sometimes write letters and send postcards, even to his little sister, who was a younger teenager when he left. The last time little sister Carolyn Sanders heard from him, she got a postcard a month or so before he was killed. It said, “I'll see you soon cause I love you.” Omg, doesn’t that kill you? She was 14, the family was living on Long Island, and she thought maybe that meant he was planning to come home for Christmas.
His mom is 87 now, and according to his younger sister, Carolyn Sanders, mom remembers the last time she got one of his monthly phone calls was in November 1976. He was asking her to send him his birth certificate because he needed it to get a security job he was going to apply for out in California. Neither Mom nor anyone else in the family heard from him after that. For this reason, it’s believed he was killed in Dec of ‘76, and buried under the house on West Summerdale Ave. Trying to keep a positive outlook, they all just always thought maybe he was just living his best life without them in it. Carolyn says their mom did have an address that Wayne had given her - so he like, had real plans? He had an apt or actual place he was expecting to live when he got there? That’s impressive. Mom used this address to call the local police dept out there in California. She said, “my son’s missing, I think he might be living at this address, can you go look?” And they did. But he wasn’t there. Mom thought this was enough, and that the California police had made a missing person report, and continued to investigate his whereabouts, but they didn’t. From their view, they were just doing a welfare check on a guy that wasn’t even verified to be living in their town yet.
Wayne’s mom and half brother were the relatives that submitted DNA samples for testing to confirm if Body #5 was actually Wayne. When the CM matches confirmed it, the family was heartbroken, but finally felt some closure. Brother Clyde says the evolution of DNA science and the use of genealogy is a miracle, because, “it brought Wayne to us.”
A statement released by his family reads: “It is hard, even 45 years later, to know the fate of our beloved Wayne. He was killed at the hands of a vile and evil man. Our hearts are heavy, and our sympathies go out to the other victims’ families. Our only comfort is knowing this killer no longer breathes the same air as we do.”
Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart, “These unidentified young men brutally murdered by this vicious serial killer deserve dignity, and that includes knowing their names. As science evolves, it is important for us to continually apply these new tools to both new and old cases to help victims and their families.” And it’s so fucking true. We are all over here, living our day to day lives, some of us are interested in true crime and hear stories of the murdered and missing daily. But just because we are done with an article, or a blog post, or an Instagram post, or a podcast episode… about a killing or killings that happened 20, 30, 40 years ago… we finish reading or hearing about it and then sit down at the table to eat dinner with our families. But some of those murdered people… they still aren’t identified. They’re families are still wondering about them. Yeah, they’re sitting down for dinner too, but they still don't have answers. Those victims are still not able to be truly put to rest. And I think that’s why what Sheriff Dart said gets me in the feels so much. Because he and his team, and the team that work all the other Doe cases… These detectives could be only working on more recent cases, solve them, and then put their feet up and call it a day. But they don’t. They own the responsibility of getting that Doe back to the family that loved him or her, even if it had been 40 years, 45yrs in Wayne’s case. I can’t do that work. I’m not a cop, I have no authority, no jurisdiction… You can’t do it. Unless you’re a cop… and if you are, thank you for your service and sacrifices. It’s these LE agencies and these genealogists that have both the knowledge in their fields AND that pull within themselves to take that time, to advocate for the unidentified victims, to work on behalf of the unknown families out there, the families that they will eventually know. They are working for those families, and they don’t even know who they are! It’s incredible to me and every time I research another Doe case, I just love…. IDK, I just love it, we just love it.
The sheriff’s dept is still working on the remaining five Does, and they have an online submission form for anyone who thinks there just might be a chance that their missing brother, son, friend might be one of them. I will put the link in the show notes.
Gary Ridgeway Victim is Bones 10 84-054800 Jane Doe 1984 is Wendy Stephens
The Green River killer, Gary Ridgeway, was actively killing hitchhikers and sex workers from 1982-1998 in Washington State, namely the Seatle and Tacoma areas. There is so much I’m not telling you here, so if you don’t know much about him, definitely check out a full length episode on a different podcast. My first intro to him was in an audiobook, I think it was Chasing the Devil: My Twenty-Year Quest to Capture the Green River Killer, written by the detective that worked the case. And if you’re looking to stick with the podcast format, Timesuck with Dan Cummins never disappoints.
This is the guy who’s mom washed him off after he wet the bed when was younger. And he tells us that she… washed all of him… yeah. In his later teen years, he started feeling a sexual attraction to his mother, knew something wasn’t right about it, but couldn’t help it, and then turned the attraction into a morbid curiosity about what it would be like to kill her. His first murder was of a 6yo boy when Gary was still in his teens, because he wanted to see what stabbing to kill was like. All this is the closest we get to understanding his urge to kill - kill women that look like mommy. How original, right?
Gary Ridway’s next victim after the little boy came years later, when he was just over 30yo. He began with Wendy Coffield on July 8, 1982, and pretty much bolted right from the gate. He would pick up girls on the side of the road, prostitutes or hitchhikers, use them, kill them, and then dump them in the back wooded areas along the Green River. Some victims were found within a month of being left behind, some took years to find. Victims' ages ranged from 14 - 38 (but only 3 were in their 30s. He preferred teens and young adults) This POS killed at least one teenage girl or young woman - sometimes 2, 3, 4 - each month until Dec 1982. He took Jan/Feb 1983 off, began again in the spring with our Jane Doe, then picked up his speed again until the end of Dec 1983. Again, he took Jan off - what, like a New Years Resolution? - resumed in Feb, but then decided to taper off. After early 1984, Ridgway's victims came about one a year, or every other year. This is something interesting, which I didn’t realize, but is there plain as day on the wiki. I don’t know how they know - maybe law enforcement is just on going on his word? - but he is believed to have killed his last victim in or around 1993. After he married his second wife, Judith Mawson, in 1988, Ridgway only killed three victims, over the course of 5 years, from 1988-1993. Judith said later, "I feel I have saved lives ... by being his wife and making him happy.” Umm, not sure what to do with that.
And all of these murders, he was so skilled as leaving no evidence behind. Even in the early 80s he knew to clip his victims’ fingernails if they scratched him. And get this, his depravity didn’t stop at his victims. If he pulled a muscle disposing of a body, he would claim a work injury and get WC payments!
Now, this is what he has been convicted of, these are a total of 49 victims that we know of… either by name and body, or by body only. Accordly to records, there are another 12 victims he has not been charged for. These are women he has either admitted to killing but no charges were brought for one reason or another, or police suspect him for, but he hasn’t admitted to and they don’t have enough evidence. And none of them were killed in January either, from what we know… weird. He was finally caught by DNA - he had given a saliva sample to Detective Reichart in the 80s, but it wasn’t until forensic technology got tighter that Reichart would risk sending it to the lab. Ridgway’s spit matched up with evidence fom four unsolved murder cases, and he was arrested in the summer of 2003. He is currently housed at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, WA.
The thing about Ridgway … well there’s a few things that make him stand out. Until Samuel Little came into the public eye a few years ago, Ridgway was the most deadly serial killer in the USA, according to convictions or closed cases attributed to him. That is until Samuel Little came into the picture in 2012… 2014, and ended up being named the serial killer with most kills in the USA, topping out at 63 confirmed and 93 confessed. So why isn’t he as well known in the general public as say, Gacy or Bundy? I think because he was not handsome, he never flew off the handle to the people in his life - everyone in his life was completely shocked when they found him - and his victims were less dead than rich white girls. They were runaway girls who were far from home or living on the streets…. or they were sex workers. They’d eventually get found, and police would come to suspect it was a serial killer leaving these dead women behind, but other than their location and cause of death, there was nothing exceptional about Ridgway and his deeds. He was married, he had the same full time job for decades, little to no run in with the law… there’s nothing sexy about him as a serial killer. But his victims are just as dead as Gacys, just as dead as Bundy’s, just as dead as Dahmer’s. And they deserve to be remembered too.
Not all of Ridgway's victims were identified as soon as they were found. In fact, Detective Reichart, who wrote the book I mentioned earlier, tells us, “The sad part is there were so many unidentified names that you had to put numbers to the bodies instead of names. It sounds very dehumanizing, but it’s the only way we can keep track.”
POS Ridgway’s youngest victim was Bones 10, 1984. No one knew she was out there, somehow concealed, for over a year, before she and another of his victim’s, Cheryl Wims, was found. Once arrested for suspicion of four other murders, and the interrogations began, one of his first confessions was to Jane Doe’s murder, and Cheryl’s, and he told police where he had left them. Police had known about the bodies, and added them to his kill list.
Bones 10, 1984, had been estimated to be between 12-18yo, white, and about 120lbs. She was believed to have been strangled to death, no bullet holes in her corpse or in her clothing, and Ridgway admitted the same. But Bones 10, discovered in March 1984, wouldn’t be identified until early this year, in 2021, even though it was in August 2019 that the DNA Doe Project was approached by the Kings County Sheriff's office for help in identifying her remains. By early September, Kevin Lord, with the DDP, had her DNA profile in the GEDmatch database, but wasn’t getting anywhere with CM matches that were coming back. Eventually he decided to look into the FamilyTreeDNA database, found a better match than the ones he found in GEDmatch, and created a family tree. It took him a whole year from uploading to GEDmatch for the first try to finally coming up with a possible name over a FamilyTreeDNA. Kings County police contacted the family, asked for DNA from one of the parents, and announced on January 25, 2021 that Bones 10, was in fact Wendy Stephens, a runaway from Colorado.
Colorado? A lot of time we hear about a Jane or John Doe and we ask, “well, wasn't she ever reported missing? Hello, family?? Where were you?” Here is your answer: they were 1000 miles away. They did know she was missing - she was 14yo, dear listener. Her family had worried about her, they had wondered about her, they had searched for her, for 37yrs. Once she turned 18, the police dropped her name from the missing child database… she’s essentially aged out of the system. So now Wendy’s name, age, physical description, last known location, identifying characteristics, all the elements that go into the missing person’s databases… she had been erased by 1984. And when police dept’s around the country started talking to each other across the interwebs, she’s not there. So how could Colorado police and Wendy’s parents - how were they to know she’d somehow made it all the way up the pacific coast to Seattle? She had gone missing in 1983, killed in spring of that year. That means, she’d only been away from home, for at the most, 3, maybe 4mo. She was taken from the world that fast. We can ask: How did Wendy get up there? Did she travel by herself the whole time? Did she have a friend with her, and then they went their separate ways once they north? Because if she had a friend with her from Colorado, and she went missing from that friend, surely they would have called back home to tell her family she’d vanished, right? Or they would have called the police up there in Washington. But then, if that friend was also as young as Wendy was, maybe not. Maybe he or she didn't want to be found either. We may never know.
But for The Stephen’s family’s part, we do know they were searching all these years, and by early 2019, they had even heard of GEDmatch. Some site that can help you find long lost relatives - yay! So one of them, either Mom or Dad, we’re not sure, but one of them took a DNA test from Ancestry, or 23andMe, or some other company. And once they got their profile report, they uploaded it right into GEDmatch! Awesome! But now you’re asking,”well, Rachel, what took so long? How come Kevin didn’t see them on the match list?” Well, dear listener, because September 2019 came after May 2019. GEDmatch had opted everyone out by the time Kevin got Wendy’s profile into the system.. and Wendy’s parents didn’t get the memo about opting back in. GEDmatch has since changed their policy - again, I know - but this is for good. Or at least we want it to be. Sometime this last summer, I can’t find when it happened, but GEDmatch did reopen the full database to LE strictly for use for identifying Jane and John Does. So for those in the same position Wendy’s parents were in - with a missing child or sister or brother - even if they haven’t opted themselves back in, GEDmatch did it for them.
Wendy’s family has been quiet about finding out what happened to their daughter. They’ve requested the media respect their privacy, so we do not have a tribute from them. Which is completely fine, of course. But we do have something from a volunteer at the DDP. On being part of the team that identified Wendy, Cairenn Binder, a forensic genealogist volunteer, tells us, “I think a lot of people listen to true crime podcasts or they watch documentaries and things like that, but we actually get to help solve these cases and it’s a really exciting thing to do it.” I could agree more. OOH! It must be such a wonderful feeling, right?
There are still two unidentified Jane Does that were killed by POS Ridgway. The DNA Doe project is working on them, and we hope for resolutions to their cases soon. There are Jane Doe Bones 17, found in early January, 1986. There is also Jane Doe Bones 20, found in August 2003. I believe she was discovered with the help of Ridgway himself. After he began confessing, police interviewed him for months, he did make attempts to help police find and identify his victims. Of course, on the promise that he wouldn’t get the death penalty. The DA agreed, and he was sentenced to life in prison. Which I’m fine with, because that actually helped a whole lot of families get answers and some closure.
Robert Hansen’s Victim Horseshoe Harriet is Robin Pelkey
Robert Hansen, also known as the Butcher Baker, was born in 1939 in Iowa. He is known as The Butcher Baker because his father had owned a bakery growing up, and Robert decided to continue the family tradition, but then created his own by becoming a serial killer. He, like Gacy, did not have the best relationship with his dad. And he, like Ridgeway, had distorted views about the female sex. His particular problem was a stutter that he developed at an early age, and the fact that puberty was not so good for his skin. These things made him vulnerable to an insane amount of bullying in school, which came form both other boys and girls, which did not help his love life… and later his sex life. It’s widely told that Hansen’s future crimes are pretty much a retaliation for the rejection he received from his dad, AND the kids at school - no friends - and then particularly the girls at school - no sex life.
Hansen was born in Iowa, went to school, graduated, had a first wife and spent some time in jail for burning down a school bus garage depot all before he was 22yo. During his short stint in prison, his psych evaluation dubbed him manic depressive, but today we prefer the term, “bipolar.” Even so, when he got out, he found himself another wife and they moved way north up to Anchorage, AK. I don’t think it’s that bad, if you can get two women to marry by the time you're 24yo, right? Whatever. He still was unsatisfied.
So the year is 1967 when they move to AK and set up a bakery shop. You’d think this would be a wonderful second chance at life, right? You have some jail time in your past, but now you’ve moved to a beautiful area, you have a wonderful wife, you’re soon to have a couple awesome kids, you own a bakery - which you wanted, and you get to go hunting on the weekends, which you also like to do. What could be better?
Well, for Robert Hansen, he wanted to rape and kill too, but he knew that law wouldn’t allow that. So he waited a bit before diving in. His first known sexaul assaults were in 1971, four years after they moved to AK. He was accused on two separate occasions of kidnapping and rape, or attempted rape, but only served minimal time, base on his good references… Because, you know, he was the town baker! But I guess, yeah, if we put it in context, this was the early 1970s. People weren’t taking sexual assault seriously back then, AND people were more prone to go with their one on one impressions of a person than to entertain the idea that that person might be a POS when he was behind closed doors.
I wonder, do you think we are like that still today? Not accepting of sexual assault, of course. But I mean, say you’re told by a coworker that another work friend was arrested for a series of bank robberies… Do you think you’d be more likely to question your evaluation of that friend here and now in the 21st century than you would have been if you were living in 1975? I guess so, because we’ve learned a lot about psychology and how people can lead double lives over the years. In fact, it’s almost weird if you DON’T have some kind of hidden secret no one knows about now, right? I like to think I live a pretty authentic life, but… you might be surprised to learn some of the things in my past, and I’m sure I would be surprised to learn about yours. All this is to say: just because you get a friend, a boss, or your pastor to tell a judge that you’re a nice guy, that doesn’t mean the judge should give that as much weight as the testimony and physical evidence presented by the victim!
Anyway… POS’s murder run lasted over a decade, and he was finally arrested under suspicion of four murders when the Anchorage PD got an FBI profiler looked into those four murdered women and came up with a killer profile that pointed them to Hansen. After a lengthy interrogation, he finally gave up a lot of his victims, but wouldn’t admit to all that the police thought were his kills. So if you side with the police, his first kill was in 1971, and he went into 1983. If you go by the murders he admitted to, he started in 1980 and went to 1983. There is something to say for the serial killer that confesses to his crimes, gives details, and leads police to the bodies, which is what he did for a handful of his victims. That creates trust and credibility. So maybe the women he denied killing really weren’t his victims. But, not so fast. Because when they executed their search warrant of his house, police found a secret map behind his headboard of locations in the area surrounding Anchorage. And more than half of them had Xs marking the spots of known body sites. Other Xs were locations he denied dumping bodies… but where in actuality, police knew bodies had been dumped. So, what’s his explanation for that? In this rundown, I don’t have an explanation for you, sorry, I don’t know if he offered one.
Hansen’s MO was to seek out - what for it - prostitutes and exotic dancers - because - wait for it - he knew they would be less missed. Shocker. He would abduct them and bring them back to his bakery to rape them. Ugh, can you imagine? This man had survivors. How do you look at a donut the same way again??? Sometimes, when his wife was away, he’d take them to his house instead. Once finished, he would pack them up in his car, and drive them to the hanger where he kept his plane - yeah, he had a plane and license for small aircraft - and then fly them out to the woods, where he would release them, and play “The Most Dangerous Game” with them. Except POS Hansen always won. These women were killed either by gunshot or an up close and personal stabbing.
He wasn’t just in it for the hunt and kill though, ironically. He was also discovered to have abducted women, brought them back to his lair, rape them, and then if they were convincing enough, he’d let them go. Upwards of 30 rape victims went endured his attack, and then, when he set them free… they didn’t report him. Or, as we said before, if they did, they weren’t believed. Because who are going to believe: A sex worker with no close friends or family? OR a local business who always delivers on your standing Monday morning donut order for the office?
Hansen would admit to 17 murders, 12 of which whose bodies were found only because he helped police find them. He revealed their identities and locations as part of his plea agreement, where the prosecutor agreed to only charge him for four of them. Those victims were: Sherry Morrow, Joanna Messina, "Eklutna Annie", and Paula Goulding.
In the end, POS Hansen got to live a long life, even after his incarceration, all the way up to 75yo. He actually spent 31yrs in prison, which is more than we can say for a lot of serial killers out there. We are told he died of natural causes… he was 75 after all, he had to have some health issues by then, what with the food and the minimal health care they get. Don’t worry, we’re not feeling sorry for him in any way.
And this brings us to Horseshoe Harriet, first found in April, 1984, with the help of POS Hansen. He had estimated that she was killed sometime around January 1983, and she was killed and left in the woods near Horseshoe Lake, a few miles northwest of Anchorage. All Hansen could - or would - offer about her was that she was a sex worker and he had adbucted her from Anchorage. Ok, well, at least, we kind of figured that. The medical examiner came up with an age range of 17-23 and that she was white, and that’s pretty much all LE had to go on. They did put her info into missing person databases, but seeing as how it was the 80s, we are not surprised police couldn’t get anywhere. And the search for her identity went cold. Horseshoe Harriet was buried as an unidentified Doe in a cemetery in Anchorage.
Decades passed and of course, police still have her file in their caseload. And it was in 2014 that they reviewed it again, talked amongst themselves, and got permission to exhume her body. The lab was able to create a basic DNA profile - not the kind we need for the family map, a more remedial one - and they uploaded it to the FBI’s missing persons database hoping for a hit. But they go crickets.
Finally in September 2020, Alaska Bureau of Investigation’s cold case unit reached out to another lab and asked for the kind of profile that can get you the mitochondrial DNA information - that’s the good one. The one that can be put in familial DNA databases. After all this time - 37yr - police were finally going to get somewhere. Once they had a good profile, they called up Parabon, who accepted the case, made up the family tree, and gave the police a name. And on October 22, 2021, ABI’s Cold Case Investigation Unit announced that Horseshoe Harriet had been identified as 19yo Robin Pelkey.
Who was Robin Pelkey? We actually have even less information about her than he had about Wendy Stephen’s. She had been born and raised in Colorado - which actually, so was Wendy. That’s weird. But somehow Robin had made it way further north, and ended up in Anchorage. She had been killed when she was about 19, based on her DOB given by her family. And that’s all we have about her. Her family, like Wendy’s, has requested their privacy.
Last unidentified victim: Eklutna Annie, believed to be his first.
Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell said of finally solving the case of Horseshoe Harriet, “I would like to thank all of the troopers, investigators and analysts that have diligently worked on this case over the last 37 years. Without their hard work and tenacity, the identity of Ms. Pelkey may have never been known.” How true it is.