North Dakota Man Played Key Role In The Investigation Of “The Frozen Ground” Serial Killer

This week my family and I are going to watch The Frozen Ground, the film released this weekend starring John Cusack, Nicholas Cage and Vanessa Hudgens. The film tells the story of Robert Hansen, a serial killer who murdered at least 17 women (and perhaps as many as 21) by kidnapping them, transporting them to the Alaskan wilderness, and then hunting them.

My family has a geographical connection to the case. I grew up with my parents in the area where Hansen preyed on women in Alaska and, as coincidence would have it, in the 1960’s Hansen lived and worked in Minot, ND at the Sweetheart Bread bakery on Broadway (now a pizza restaurant and arcade) just miles where my family and I live.

But we have another connection too. My father was one of the cops who brought Hansen to justice. Rollie Port was one of the first investigators assigned to what would eventually become Hansen’s case when the body of 24-year-old Sherry Morrow was found along the Knik River.

Currently Hansen is serving a 461 year sentence at Spring Creek Correctional in Seward, AK. My father has visited him a couple of times since while there on other business – my dad bought a model fishing boat Hansen made in prison chillingly named “Lovely” after one of his first victims, the proceeds went to Hansen’s restitution – but for the most part this story is part of my family’s lore. One of the many bad guys my dad brought to justice over the years.

I have no idea how accurately the movie will portray the case – not very, I’m guessing – and my father wasn’t involved in development for the movie, though he was asked, so I’m guessing there won’t be a “Rollie Port” character, but we hope to enjoy it anyway with a recount afterward from my dad about just how many things the movie got wrong.

In the trailer above, the part where Nicholas Cage’s character goes to the river where they discovered the body, that’s almost certainly portraying my father’s part of the investigation, as this old TruTV Crime Library article indicates:

The Knik River valley is a preferred hunting ground for veteran trophy hunters. Just twenty-five miles from the city of Anchorage, the winding gorge—carved by prehistoric glacial ice—makes it a perfect place to find mountain goats, Dall sheep, black bears, and moose. On September 12, 1982, John Daily and Audi Holloway, two off-duty Anchorage police officers, spent an afternoon hunting along the Knik River.

According to Butcher Baker by Walter Gilmour and Leland E. Hale, the two men had little luck and as darkness began to fall they decided to call it a day. The trek was not necessarily easy, but both men were familiar with the area and cut across a wide sandbar. However, as they progressed up the river, they noticed a boot sticking out of the sand. Normally a find like this would not be cause for concern, but for any police officer, curiosity denotes investigation. Upon closer inspection, the two men were taken aback. Sticking out of the sand was a partially decomposed bone joint. Once their minds registered what they were looking at, both men backed up from the scene. The last thing they wanted to do was disturb or contaminate any evidence. After making note of the location, both men made their way out of the gorge and back to their camp.

Gilmour and Hale wrote that Sergeant Rollie Port was assigned to cover the investigation. A decorated Vietnam veteran, Port was considered one of the top investigators on the force. He was meticulous with every crime scene and was known to spend hours going over the smallest area. Before disturbing the body, Port had photographs taken from every angle and carefully examined the body itself for trace evidence before having it bagged. Afterwards, he pulled out a large screen and began sifting through the sand around the body. It took several hours for him to finish sifting, but in the end it paid off. Lying on the screen before him was a single shell casing from a .223-caliber bullet. Port was familiar with this type of ammunition and knew that it was used in high-powered rifles like M-16s, Mini-14s, or AR-15s.

That .223 shell casing would go on to be a key piece of evidence against Hansen at trial.

I’m looking forward to the movie. I was an infant when Hansen began his killings, and just three by the time he was caught and put in prison. It’s a part of my father’s life I didn’t witness fist hand, and I hope to have it more thoroughly illuminated thanks to this movie.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

Related posts

  • Matthew Hawkins

    Is your father still with us and is he going?

    • Rob

      Oh definitely, and he will see the movie yeah. He still works as a PI.

      • Matthew Hawkins

        I just thought it would be cool to watch it with him, but that may be better for the DVD when he can talk to you about what really happened.
        I suspect your father won’t be in it exactly, but the main hero will be an amalgam of many of the officers so they can have a bigger hero.

      • Glenn Adams

        Rob, please update us once your dad watches the movie and provide us with his critique, as well as any additional info that he wants to share..

        • Rob

          I’ll try to do that. It’s really hard to get him to talk about some of this stuff. He’s very humble. He’s not mentioned much in any of the books about the case because he’s never gone out of his way to cooperate with the authors.

          Just didn’t care that much about the publicity, I guess. The only one that really names my dad is Butcher, Baker by Walt Gilmore, who was my dad’s boss.

          • Glenn Adams

            Interesting, Rob. Many cases haunt the investigators, even after retirement. Not sure about your dad, but cases of this magnitude have a lasting affect on those required to bring them to Justice..
            Roger L. Depue “Between Good and Evil” Author & Retired FBI BAU Profiler:

            My job has been to try to stop human predators before they kill again, and after studying them so closely over so many years, to me their traits seem clearly recognizable.
            Evil is more than a vague notion. It is an entity, and it is manifest on the earth. It has reflexes and intuition, senses vulnerability, and changes its form to adapt to its surroundings. Those who do not believe the Devil walks this earth have not seen the things that I have seen.
            Evil is not a discrete entity that springs forth fully formed. It is born in the mind, takes root there as fantasy, and prospers when normal human restraint can no longer contain it. I have seen it devour the personalities of men like Richard Speck, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Ted Bundy, turning them into blank-faced sociopaths who clearly know right from wrong, but choose, time and again, to follow their own base urges, with complete disregard for the terrible human suffering they cause.
            I believe that every act of homicide causes a slight unbalancing in the world, and that it diminishes life’s universal equation. In the interest of justice, it is imperative that someone try to right that imbalance. But the task of fighting evil can take a terrible toll on the people who are charged with it. It can cost them their families, their equilibrium, their capacity for joy.

  • JoeMN

    You must be the proudest son in America right now.

    • Rob

      It is pretty cool.

      • WOOF

        if you take the kids be aware there’s nudity prostitution/ language.

        Already on the movie sites.

        • two_amber_lamps

          I’d say that’s tame stuff compared to the other things you libs wanna teach youngsters…

          And for your edification, the Madison area where this is being implemented is a leftist basket case.

          • borborygmi45

            but it sure is a vibrant growing metropolitan area.Damn Liberals. Hehehe It sure isn’t a Detroit. Same can be said for Raleigh NC area. One of the fastest growing metro areas in the country and is about as democratic/liberal as it gets.

          • two_amber_lamps

            but it sure is a vibrant growing metropolitan area IN SPITE OF damn Liberals.

            There, fixed that for ya!

        • Rob

          Grownups only night.

          We watched it. Pretty good. The part where Hansen put a contract out on the one witness in the case was totally fabricated, but the rest was pretty close.

  • sbark

    On Dish Network PPV…….Sam Adams has agreed to join me to watch …….

  • awfulorv

    Now that’s damn interesting stuff. Enjoy the movie…

  • borborygmi45

    I am glad your Dad helped catch this sick SOB

  • awfulorv

    Well Cusack gives a balance to Capolla’s nephew, so that’s good. But it’s likely the NRA, and Cessna, will be savaged, so that’s not good. I wonder if, at least, a few of his victims were not shot from his plane, like they once hunted wolves, and foxes, in North Dakota?

    • borborygmi45

      The whole premise is so grotesque,almost surreal.

  • awfulorv

    Would it be gauche of me to suggest that Mr. Hansen’s expertise at the donut machine might have lulled some of the policemen into a, “Naw, it couldn’t be him”, a not wanting to upset the apple fritter cart, frame of mind?

    • awfulorv

      Not wishing to impugn the motives of the hard working policemen, I meant to write. Well if that don’t take the cake. Hiding in plain si…errr over by the donut machine.

    • Rob

      If you’e saying my dad let a love of doughnuts get in the way of the investigation, you don’t know my dad. A great doughnut lover, yes, but also a great investigator.

      As I remember him relating it to me, there were two challenges. One, they really didn’t have a lot of evidence tying Hansen to the case. It wasn’t until he got caught for insurance fraud, and a resulting search of his possessions turned up the .223 which matched one used on one of the victims that they got him.

      The other thing was that the cops were being cautious. They’d had a serial killer get away from them – killing himself when he found out the cops wee on his tail – because they’d made a big deal out of the investigation.

      They were moving slowly and trying to fly under the radar lest Hansen flee.

      • Glenn Adams

        Who was the serial killer that comitted suicide, Rob, if you know? Are you aware that there was another serial killer that committed suicide recently while awaiting trial? Ironically he comitted suicide on the original release date of The Frozen Ground. His name is/was Israel Keyes. Keyes was a hybrid/emulator. He studied others; Bundy, Hansen, and others…

        • Rob

          Thomas Richard Bunday. Committed suicide after an arrest warrant was issued.

          • Glenn Adams

            RE: They were moving slowly and trying to fly under the radar lest Hansen flee.
            ‘ Is R Bunday the SK that you referred too, as to why R Hansen wasn’t arrested sooner ‘?

      • Glenn Adams

        The first successful use of psychological profiling of killers in Alaska occurred when it allowed police to narrow their search for the murderer of 5 Fairbanks-area women between 1979 and 1981.

        Serving at Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, Thomas Richard Bunday was not able to elude police for long. He had been transferred to Wichita Falls, Texas, but an hour after a warrant for his arrest had been issued, he took the coward’s way out and committed suicide by plowing his motorcycle head-on into a truck.

  • Glenn Adams

    Rob, thank your dad for his service, both as a Vietnam Veteran and as a Public Safety Officer… Thank you for sharing your story.. I watched The Frozen Ground and thought it was presented in a very professional manner; both the acting and directing. I am confident that it would have filled the theaters, if not for the marketing issues that caused the two major theater companies to boycott it. It can be rented on VOD.

    The Frozen Ground movie was dedicated to the known and unknown innocent victims of serial killer Robert Christian Hansen.. Their names, info, and photos preceded the film’s credits.. I thought this was a very heartwarming gesture..


  • mickey_moussaoui

    Nicholas Cage is earthy. He brings a special kind of presence to his characters. I want to see this

    • realitybasedbob

      If by earthy you mean akin to a dirt clod, then yes, Nick is earthy.

      • Onslaught1066

        >penance stare<

      • mickey_moussaoui

        Why am I not surprised by your lack of vocabulary? Take another swig of cough medicine rbb

        earthy: Natural, unartificial, unpretentious , Down to earth, no-nonsense, practical, pragmatic, sensible

        • awfulorv

          You forgot wooden, cept when he’s involved in switching faces, that is…

  • Glenn Adams

    Thanx for the heads up, Rob..Got the last one… Used ones are selling/listed
    for as much as $2,000.00.. Butcher, Baker: A True Account of a Serial Murder (Onyx)
    by Walter Gilmoure
    Only 1 left in stock.
    Gift Options not av

    • Rob

      I should see if i can track a copy down. I don’t think I have one.

      I’m surprised they didn’t re-issue it along with the movie. I’ll bet they’d get a lot of sales from recommendations on Amazon. It was really a good book.

  • awfulorv

    I’ve thought of becoming a serial killer. Well not serials actually, I’ve got nothing against them, but other’s such as my first wife, deserved a shortened life, that’s for sure, that’s for dang sure…

  • C. Y.

    It’s been awhile since I read the book but I thought I read that Hansen had worked at one of the Cox Bakeries, somewhere in the lower 48. I believe the Cox Bakery was headquartered out of Grand Forks.

    • Rob

      My dad told me it was the Sweetheart Bakery in Minot, but maybe he got it confused. Hansen was definitely in ND,and it may have been both places. He bounced around.

      • awfulorv

        The book I read ten years ago stated he’d worked in a bakery in Jamestown…

  • Glenn Adams…hotos-evidence

    Photos: Evidence a serial killer left behind

    Alaskan serial killer Israel Keyes confessed to killing three people before his suicide in December 2012. The FBI believes he committed multiple kidnappings and murders across the country between 2001 and March 2012. In an attempt to identify additional victims, the FBI is asking anyone with information regarding Keyes to call the tipline at 1-800-CALL-FBI.
    By Katherine Cavazini
    updated 4:34 PM EDT, Tue August 27, 2013

    Watch “Nancy Grace Mysteries: Confessions of a Serial Killer,” a two-part special airing August 28 and 29 at 8 p.m. ET on HLN.

  • awfulorv

    Speaking of frozen ground, there are reports from Peru that 250.000 Alpaca, whose main purpose of life is to supply us with warm fibers for our coats, have died of cold temperatures.
    Likewise children, and the elderly, are freezing to death, having foolishly sold their warm clothing at yard sales on news of global warming.
    Big Al has, as yet, not commented on the coldest temps seen in a decade in Peru…