Monthly Archives: November 2019

Serial Murderer Gary Zieger



Gary Zieger

Gary Zieger, a brutal serial killer, stalked the streets of Anchorage in the early 1970s. We’ll never know how many people Zieger killed, but eventually, the psychopath made a fatal mistake.

During the period when serial killer Robert Hansen terrorized Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska, another brutal murderer roamed the same area. While Hansen selected and hunted his prey, Gary Zieger used women and men for his satisfaction and then simply discarded them. Zieger seemed unwilling or unable to control himself and was sure to self-destruct.

When two hikers discovered the body of Celia Beth Van Zanten at McHugh Creek State Park south of Anchorage, they knew she had suffered a horrible death. Someone had gagged her and tied her hands behind her back with speaker wire; her body was naked below the waist. The pathologist later determined Beth had been raped and her chest slashed with a knife. She was still alive when she was either thrown or fell into a ravine. She apparently tried to climb out of the steep-walled crevice, but with her hands tied behind her back, she had no way to pull herself up the cliff, and she repeatedly fell until she froze to death in the frigid December weather.

Investigators discovered tire tracks turning lazy circles in the parking lot of the campground, and they deduced Beth escaped her attacker, ran down the steep slope, and probably fell into the ravine. Her abductor circled the parking lot waiting for her to reappear, but when she never did, he finally left.

Beth disappeared on December 23, 1971, while walking from her house to a local convenience store. What happened during her short walk down the street?

Soon after the hikers discovered Beth Van Zanten’s body on Christmas day, 18-year-old Sandra Patterson, the daughter of an Alaska State Trooper, came forward to report her abduction on December 19th. Sandra worked as a prostitute to support her heroin addiction. She was working in the parking lot of the Nevada Club in Anchorage when a man pointed a gun at her and told her he would kill her if she didn’t do what he wanted. She described her attacker as a slender man in his mid-twenties wearing horn-rimmed glasses. The man drove Sandra to a motel on the Kenai Peninsula, nearly one-hundred miles south of Anchorage and raped her. On the drive back to Anchorage, he threatened to kill her if she reported him to the police. Sandra complied with his demands to remain silent until she heard about Beth Van Zanten’s murder, and then she knew she had to come forward and tell authorities about her abduction.

Police asked Sandra to study a book of photos of known sex offenders to see if she could pick out the man who had kidnapped and raped her. She immediately identified her attacker as Robert Hansen. Hansen’s photo was in the book because he was awaiting trial for the attempted kidnapping of a young Anchorage woman.

Hansen was initially charged with kidnapping and raping Sandra Patterson, but prosecutors considered Patterson an unreliable witness, and the charges were eventually dropped. Meanwhile, nothing tied Hansen to the murder and abduction of Beth Van Zanten, and to this day, authorities remain unsure whether Beth was murdered by Hansen, by someone she knew, or by another brutal killer named Gary Zieger.

Sources:

Brennan, Tom. 2005.  Alaska’s Billy The Kid Brennan, Cold Crime. Epicenter Press.
Butcher Baker: Lonesome Death of Beth Van Zanten: The Killer is Killed by Lealand E. Hale
Turnagain Currents: The Hired Gun by Mike Gordon

________________________________________________________________________

Subscribe to my Murder and Mystery Newsletter with links to all my podcast episodes.

Just Released: Karluk Bones

Join me on:
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

Visit my website at http://robinbarefield.com
Robin Barefield is the author of four Alaska wilderness mystery novels, Big Game, Murder Over Kodiak, The Fisherman’s Daughter, and Karluk Bones. Sign up to subscribe to her free, monthly newsletter on true murder and mystery in Alaska.


The Coast Guard Murders



 

Main Coast Guard Base
Kodiak, Alaska

The double homicide I describe in this episode occurred on a secure Coast Guard base near the town of Kodiak, Alaska on Kodiak Island, approximately 60 miles from where I live. This murder happened toward the end of the most brutal winter anyone on Kodiak can remember, and when the police did not quickly apprehend the killer, tempers flared, and citizens carried firearms wherever they went. Our mail plane pilot, reporting the news to us on his weekly stop, compared the residents in town to a powder keg ready to blow. When it was all over, many in law enforcement and the judicial system praised the investigation, but at the time it seemed as if no one was doing anything to look for and apprehend the killer.

On April 12th, 2012, meteorologists predicted the temperature on Kodiak would soar to 50 degrees, and if it did, the residents of the island would enjoy the warmest day since October. Spirits lifted in Kodiak with this promise of spring, but the upbeat moods didn’t last long. Around 8:30 that morning, rumors spread through town indicating someone had been murdered at the Coast Guard base. When the rumors became more specific, and the whispers suggested the shooting happened at the rigger shop, the families of the small crew of men who worked there waited in dread. Soon, those rumors were confirmed. Not only had one man been killed, but two men were dead.

James Wells, left

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

Two killed in shooting at Coast Guard communications station. Kodiak Daily Mirror, April 13, 2012.

Coast Guard killer thought still at large. Kodiak Daily Mirror, April 16, 2012.

Shooting investigators focus on Bell’s Flats home. Kodiak Daily Mirror, April 18, 2012.

FBI failing to reach Kodiak residents. Kodiak Daily Mirror, April 27, 2012.

FBI asks Alaskans’ help as it seeks Coast Guard murder weapon. Kodiak Daily Mirror, May 16, 2012.

Kodiak man arrested for Coast Guard double murder. Kodiak Daily Mirror. February 15, 2013.

Man arrested in 2012 Alaska Coast Guard base deaths
https://komonews.com/news/nation-world/man-arrested-in-2012-alaska-coast-guard-base-deaths-11-21-2015

Coast Guard double murder trial to begin Monday. Kodiak Daily Mirror, March 28, 2014.

Investigators testify in Coast Guard murder case. Kodiak Daily Mirror, April 11, 2014.

Car expert testifies in Coast Guard double homicide. Kodiak Daily Mirror. April 16, 2014.

Investigators testify in Kodiak double murder case
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/apr/10/investigators-testify-in-kodiak-double-murder-case/

Kodiak quiet before verdict. Kodiak Daily Mirror, April 25, 2014.

Wells guilty of murdering two at Coast Guard. Kodiak Daily Mirror. April 25, 2014.

Update: Wells gets four consecutive life terms sentence. Kodiak Daily Mirror, July 8, 2014

Ninth Circuit Orders New Trial for Man Accused of Coast Guard Killings

Ninth Circuit Orders New Trial for Man Accused of Coast Guard Killings

FBI: Coast Guard murder suspect resented co-workers
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/19/coast-guard-murder-suspect-resented-co-workers/1931741/

Wells convicted, again, of Kodiak Coast Guard double murder

Wells convicted, again, of Kodiak Coast Guard double murder

Wells guilty of double murder http://www.kodiakdailymirror.com/news/article_c40f8b96-eabb-11e9-aefb-5fe63cfb932e.html

____________________________________________________

Subscribe to my Murder and Mystery Newsletter with links to all my podcast episodes.
_____________________________________________________
Just Released: Karluk Bones

Join me on:
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Visit my website at http://robinbarefield.com
________________________________________________________________________
Robin Barefield is the author of four Alaska wilderness mystery novels, Big Game, Murder Over Kodiak, The Fisherman’s Daughter, and Karluk Bones. Sign up to subscribe to her free, monthly newsletter on true murder and mystery in Alaska.