Do you know this woman?
41 years after her murder, a new effort seeks to identify “Eklutna Annie,” one of serial killer Robert Hansen’s early victims.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - She died 41 years ago, an early victim of Alaska serial killer Robert Hansen. To this day, she remains a Jane Doe. But investigators hope updated forensic artistry will help identify this 1979 murder victim.
Found in 1980 in a shallow grave off Eklutna Lake Road, she became known as “Eklutna Annie.”
The search for her killer is long over. Hansen was convicted of multiple killings and died in jail. But the search for who Eklutna Annie was during her life remains an open case.
The small details known about her story came from an interrogation of Hansen after his arrest.
“He basically claimed that she was a sex worker that he met here in Anchorage, and that’s about all we know of her background,” said Randy McPherron, a cold case investigator with the Alaska State Troopers.
According to news reports at the time of his arrest, Hansen, a baker, and a pilot had a victim “type.” He chose small, young women with light hair. Investigators believe Eklutna Annie may have been between 16 and 25 years old and about five feet tall, give or take a few inches. They think she is white, but she may also be of Native American heritage.
“He wasn’t really interested in her as a person or what her background was, and that’s the only source of information we have,” McPherron said.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children used photographs of the woman’s skull and Adobe Photoshop computer program to create an updated forensic composite portrait.
“We want the focus to be mostly on the face,” said forensic artist Colin McNally, who supervises the unit that does the work for the center.
“I might not recognize her, but somebody out there in the public could be looking for her. She probably has family or friends out there from that time period that are still looking for her, that knows what her name is, and getting this image out to all of these people is really going to be the thing that gets her name back,” McNally said.
The center released the updated image earlier this month.
Additional clues include the woman’s hand-made jewelry, which appears to be Native American in origin. McNally’s department cleaned up the images of those pieces in hopes the unique features will generate leads.
They include a hammered copper bracelet with turquoise stones, a beaded necklace with a turquoise shell and a heart charm, gold hope earrings, a gold ring with a white stone and a Timex wristwatch with a gold chain.
Autumn Smith, a self-described advocate for missing and murdered women, describes the new image of Eklutna Annie as “haunting.”
She visited Jane Doe’s gravesite with Alaska’s News Source to talk about the importance of correctly identifying the woman’s remains. When she posted the new image on her personal Facebook page, it was shared more than 400 times in 24 hours -- a sign, she says, that interest remains high in Eklutna Annie’s case.
“The new likeness inspired people to really think about, do I know this person? Is somebody missing their daughter? Is somebody missing their friend? Is somebody missing their coworker? And it inspired the community to start talking about her again,” Smith said.
A small headstone engraved with the name Jane Doe at the Anchorage Cemetary marks the burial spot for Eklutna Annie’s remains. Investigators believe she was killed approximately 41 years ago, in the Fall of 1979. Despite the passage of time, they, and Smith, hope someone knows who she is and will come forward.
For Smith, the woman’s story shouldn’t be dictated by her killer, or by lifestyle choices that may have placed her in harm’s way. For too long, Smith said, women in difficult situations have been considered “less than.” Identifying Eklutna Annie will send a message that everyone has value.
Identifying her “means that no matter how you lived, whatever circumstances that you are in, that even after death, there is an equality here,” Smith said. “She deserves just as much as a search for her people as any other victim, as any other survivor.”
If you recognize Jane Doe, Alaska State Troopers ask that you call them at (800) 478-9333 or (907) 269-5038.
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