What automatically pops into your head when you think of Alaska? Is it camping? Fishing? Snowy mountains? Whale watching?
First and foremost, I think of grizzly bears because I find them terrifying. Behind them are moose and how massive and vast the state is compared to the lower 48.
Most people probably do not think of crime at first unless it’s about a certain well-known serial killer.
In 1983, Alaskans felt immense relief when serial killer Robert C. Hansen’s 12-year reign of terror ended after police finally captured him. Hansen sexually assaulted and murdered several women over that period. After he abducted them, Hansen turned his victims loose in Alaska’s bear-infested wilderness, then hunted them down like animals and killed them. Only one victim escaped – Cindy Paulson. She was able to lead the police to Hansen.
I can’t even imagine the terror these women experienced.
Hansen’s victims were exotic dancers or sex workers, women he likely believed nobody cared about or would even know they had disappeared off the face of the earth.
In a thread on the City-Data.com forum, user AK-Cathy posted:
Robert Hansen was able to murder all of those prostitutes without escaping detection for so long because no one was missing those girls. There were too many and the turnover was high. If that girl [Cindy Paulson] hadn’t gotten free at Merrill Field as he was trying to stuff her into his airplane, he would have been prowling the streets for much longer. There where (sic) dozens of highly visible prostitutes on the streets at any given time, probably hundreds working the city on a given night. Pimp mobiles (giant limos with TV antennas) constantly cruised the streets. Along with that there were the various “houses”, dozens of strip clubs, a rampant drug trade and finally the type of personal crimes that go along with this activity.
Anchorage, located in the south-central part of the state, has nearly 300,000 population. Think St. Louis and that is the size of Anchorage. Truth be told, I never realized it was that big.
While the city boasts of auroras, plenty of outdoor activities, and midnight sun, Anchorage has a dark side few people realize. I am one of them.
Truthfully, it is like any large city. It has good and bad areas, with moral and immoral people. Anchorage also has several missing persons and unsolved murders. Yet, after researching, I see Alaska as an ideal place where the lost can remain hidden forever, and unknown killers can quietly walk among everyone else undetected.
Between 1980 and 2002, several women disappeared without a trace from Anchorage. Many were exotic dancers or sex workers; a few were women of color, and several abused drugs. A couple of foreigners were visiting The Last Frontier when they vanished. All of these factors combined may be the reason why the police never took their cases seriously. That is how it appears to me due to the lack of information available.
Prostitution, dubbed the world’s oldest profession, has been in Anchorage longer than the official establishment of the city in 1914. More sex workers arrived after the completion of the Alaska railway system in 1923.
Unfortunately, killers like Hansen or Gary Ridgway tend to go after women of the night because they are easy targets. And I don’t mean the women are at fault, instead, the lifestyle itself. It comes with the territory, unfortunately.
Some of the women listed here were no different than Hansen’s victims. But they all had one thing in common: they did not deserve to disappear.
What Happened to These Women?
There are few details available on the women below. Some have a bit more information than others, but overall, we do not know much about them or their disappearances.
Karen Dean Evan
Karen, 18, disappeared from Anchorage in May 1980, but little is known about her or her disappearance. She was expecting a visit from her sister in Canada, but she had not contacted her family. Karen remained in constant contact with the family until May 1980. She is not listed as a possible victim of Hansen but authorities did rule her out as Eklutna Annie, who is believed to be his first victim and the only one who remains unidentified.
Magdalena O. Perez
Magdalena, 33, was a divorced mother of one son and a full-time college student. She lived with her boyfriend. She disappeared on July 10, 1988, after a friend dropped her off in the 600 block of West 34th Avenue where The Mallary Apartments currently sit.
Magdalena was supposed to meet her former husband at 10 p.m. at the McDonald’s on 36th Avenue and Old Seward Highway to pick up her son. Her ex-husband waited an hour before leaving; Magdalena never showed. He called her boyfriend, who then notified the police.
Authorities launched a search but failed to find Magdalena. However, they discovered her gray 1985 Plymouth Colt sedan parked at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on the third parking garage level.
There was a 10-inch scrape on the car’s left fender, suggesting someone intentionally forced her off the road. Magdalena never boarded a flight under her name or associated surnames. It is possible something happened to her at the place she went to after her friend dropped her off on West 34th Avenue. I could not find that information, so the police or the friend may not have known where Magdalena was going.
Robin Lynn Vansickel
Robin was 29 years old and employed as an exotic dancer, possibly at the Great Alaskan Bush Company at 631 East International Airport Road.
Hansens’s victim, Lisa Futrell, had also worked at the Bush Company before her 1980 murder. Robin disappeared sometime during the summer of 1988, but the circumstances are unknown. According to The Charley Project, Robin somehow became involved in the drug bust of New York-based dealers known as the “Cocaine Cowboys.”
The only bust I found regarding “Cocaine Cowboys” occurred in the early 1990s after she vanished. The Charley Project did not elaborate. However, Sal Magluta and Willy Falcon ran the massive drug trafficking network as a whole. Magluta remains incarcerated today, serving a life sentence on money laundering and other charges. I did find a significant New York bust in 1986, but I am unsure if that is what TCP is talking about.
Samantha Lee Kent
Samantha was an attractive 24-year-old woman who worked as an exotic dancer at P.J.’s strip club at 3600 Spenard Road in Anchorage. It is no longer there. She disappeared on November 1, 1993, and left all her belongings behind, including $300 in cash. Shortly before she went missing, her father died, and she stood to inherit $5,000; she never collected the money. Samantha had discussed taking a trip to Hawaii, but her bathing suits and other warm-weather clothing were also left behind.
Three days after Samantha Kent vanished, Sandra, 41, disappeared on November 4, 1993. She was last seen at around 7 p.m., departing the Carousel Lounge bar in Spenard in her light blue GMC pickup truck. Sandra was headed to Wasilla carrying a large sum of cash (over $10,000) to meet two people to purchase drugs. She was dating a New York drug dealer at the time and became involved in deals.
The next day, authorities found her abandoned truck in a 7-Eleven parking lot at Arctic Boulevard and International Airport Road. The door was ajar, and her eyeglasses were inside. Police believe whoever she met in Wasilla killed her and took the money. But that is only a theory.
Sandra was a native of California and had moved to Anchorage a few years before her disappearance. She has three grown children.
Tracie Denise Vicent
Tracie, 26, grew up in Florida and moved to Alaska in her teens. Her life was hard; she had five children and became a sex worker. In 1995, Tracie lived with her boyfriend, Tyrone Verso Hill, in Mountain View, one of Anchorage’s most dangerous neighborhoods.
According to Hill, he and Tracie argued on June 14 that year; she walked out of the house and disappeared. He reported her missing two weeks later.
Anchorage police arrested Tracie three times in the 18 months before she disappeared. Hill has an extensive criminal history that includes assault and domestic violence, to name a few. However, he maintained his innocence in her disappearance and said she would never willingly leave her children. Hill now resides in Minnesota.
Sabine, 33, was a German citizen who traveled to Anchorage via United Airlines on March 18, 1998. She vanished sometime after landing during the early morning hours.
Sabine had naturally curly blond hair and blue eyes and wore glasses or contact lenses. On the day she disappeared, she wore a black wool coat over a blue and green sweater, blue Levi jeans, and European hiking boots.
Hiroko, 36, was a psychology senior at Michigan State University from Japan. However, she told a friend she did not plan to attend the fall semester because “her degree would lead to employment solely in research, and she wanted to work in clinical psychology,” The Charley Project reports.
Hiroko sold most of her clothing and belongings and planned to return to Japan on June 3, 1998. Before she left, her friend and the friend’s husband took her out for dinner, and Hiroko gave her friend numerous Japanese souvenirs.
Hiroko departed Lansing via Northwest Airlines to Anchorage, Alaska, on June 3. She traveled to Denali National Park and Preserve near Mount McKinley and returned to Anchorage shortly afterward. Hiroko spent one night at a youth hostel before traveling to Wasilla on June 7, 1998. She purchased a train ticket from Anchorage to Whittier and a ferry ticket from Whittier to Valdez, but police could not confirm she arrived at her destinations.
I don’t understand. How could the police not confirm whether Hiroko had at least boarded the ferry or train?
Hiroko called her mother in Japan every week but never mentioned not returning to her native country.
Kelly Sue Dunn
Kelly was 29 years old when she vanished sometime in 1998. Raised by adoptive parents in Oregon, Kelly abused drugs and became a sex worker in Portland and Seattle. Later, she and her pimp moved to New York City. However, she became pregnant and moved back to Oregon.
Kelly gave birth to a girl but left the child with her parents and moved to Anchorage. She strived for a better life and enrolled in cosmetology school.
Sadly, she returned to drugs and prostitution and had a second daughter, but she lost custody due to her lifestyle. Kelly always remained in contact with her family. However, they have not heard from her since 1998.
Jeri Anne Brommels
Jeri is the oldest woman on the list at 48. She disappeared from the Mountain View neighborhood on April 20, 2002. Jeri had previous arrests for driving under the influence and other substance-related charges. I could find nothing further on her.
Anyone with information regarding the cases listed here can call the Alaska State Troopers Missing Persons Unit at (800) 478-9333, the Anchorage Police Department at (907) 786-8900, or Crime Stoppers at (907) 561-7867.