How Cindy Paulson Escaped Serial Killer Robert Hansen
April 19, 2020 ~ By Shari Rose Updated February 16, 2021
Cindy Paulson survived an attack by Robert Hansen in Anchorage, AK on June 13, 1983
From 1971 to 1983, serial killer Robert Hansen murdered at least 17 women in Anchorage, Alaska. Known as the “Butcher Baker”, Hansen would kidnap women, assault them, and fly them to remote areas in the Alaskan wilderness. There, he would hunt them down with a rifle. Hansen’s murder spree surely would have continued, had it not been for Cindy Paulson.
Robert Hansen Picks Up Cindy Paulson in His Car
Cindy Paulson was a 17-year-old dancer and sex worker living in Anchorage. When Hansen drove up to Paulson in his car, she agreed to get in. Once inside, Hansen pulled a gun on her and placed her in handcuffs. Hansen then drove to his home, and sexually assaulted and tortured Paulson.
Some time later, Hansen began showing her his large collection of hunting trophies. Cindy Paulson was able to read his real name on these awards, and she says it was at this moment that she realized he was going to kill her. So, she resolved to try and escape, if the chance ever arose.
Eventually, Hansen drove the two of them to a local airfield, Merrill Field airport, where his plane was waiting. Hansen parked, got out of the car, and told the still-handcuffed Paulson to not move, or else he’d kill her.
After he left the car to load his plane, Cindy Paulson threw her body into the driver’s seat and opened the door. No shoes on and hands cuffed, she sprinted for the nearest street. Hansen turned around, and saw her escape. He then gave chase, yelling all the while, but Paulson ran onto Fifth Avenue at about 5 AM. To her relief, a passing driver took one look at her and pulled over.
After a five-hour ordeal, Paulson was finally out of Hansen’s grasp. She asked the driver to take her to the motel where her boyfriend was staying.
At the airfield, Hansen made his way back to his car and quickly sped off. However, an observant security guard took notice of Hansen’s strange behavior and wrote down his license plate and car model.
Back at the motel, Cindy Paulson, still in handcuffs, got a hold of her boyfriend at the front desk. It was at that point that an employee made a call to the Anchorage Police Department.
How Paulson Helped Anchorage Police Identify Hansen
When police arrived, Paulson provided a highly detailed account of her ordeal, including information about Hansen’s car, the street his home was on, and even small details about the gun used against her.
Less than an hour after Cindy Paulson escaped Hansen, she was in a police car, headed for the hospital, as is standard protocol for a victim of sexual assault. While en route to the hospital, they drove past the same airfield Paulson had just run away from. She remembered which area of the airport that she had escaped from, and what Hansen’s plane looked like. Paulson then led police to precisely where Hansen’s blue and white plane was still parked.
Noticing the scene taking place, that same security guard who had written down Hansen’s license plate flagged down these officers and shared his information. Using these details from Hansen’s car and the plane’s registration, Anchorage police contacted the FAA for final confirmation.
As officers pulled into the hospital, they got the call that the registration of the car and plane matched that of Robert C. Hansen.
Cindy Paulson Now
Though it would be another four months or so until Hansen was finally arrested for his crimes, Cindy Paulson’s escape and resulting testimony gave police the break they needed to identify a suspect for the rash of unsolved murders from the past decade.
Paulson’s escape and her assistance in catching Hansen was the subject of “The Frozen Ground”, a movie released in 2013. Paulson spoke with the actress who portrayed her, Vanessa Hudgens, and provided personalized guidance in how to play her in the film. When speaking about working with Cindy Paulson, at the time in her mid 40’s, Hudgens said: “She gave me an extremely solid foundation and told me her earliest memories that she had until where she is to this day.”
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