How a Slain Teen Known as 'Horseshoe Harriet' Was ID'd Decades After Her Murder by a Serial Killer
A teenager who was murdered 38 years ago in Alaska by a serial killer has finally been identified.
The Alaska Bureau of Investigation announced Friday that the teen was identified through genetic genealogy and a DNA sample as 19-year-old Colorado native Robin Pelkey. Previously, she had been known only as "Horseshoe Harriet," after her remains were found in April 1984 beside Horseshoe Lake near Anchorage.
Investigators believe Pelkey was killed in 1983 by serial killer and bakery owner Robert Hansen, who was nicknamed by the media as the "Butcher Baker."
Hansen, who died in prison in 2014, was known to abduct his victims, drive or fly them to remote wilderness locations and then make a sport out of hunting them down.
He was arrested in October 1983 and the following year pleaded guilty to the murder of four women whose bodies were found in Alaska between 1980 and 1983.
He confessed to murdering 17 women and showed investigators the locations of many of his victims, including Pelkey.
However, her identity remained a mystery for decades.
In 2014, her body was exhumed and a DNA sample was taken and uploaded into the FBI's missing person databank, but no matches were found.
In August 2021, her DNA profile was uploaded into a public genetic genealogy database.
"Utilizing several close matches, a family tree for the victim was constructed," the Alaska Bureau of Investigation said in a press release. "Genealogy research by Parabon Nanolabs and ABI indicated that the victim might be a woman named Robin Pelkey."
Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up forPEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.
Investigators determined that she had potential relatives living in Alaska and Arkansas.
"ABI contacted the Arkansas State Police and requested their assistance," police said. "They contacted a very close relative of Pelkey's and obtained a DNA sample. The sample was sent to the State of Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory in Anchorage. Kinship DNA analysis completed in September 2021, confirmed that 'Horseshoe Harriet' is in fact Robin Pelkey."
Investigators said Pelkey lived in Anchorage in the early 80s during the years Hansen was preying on vulnerable women.
The Alaska Bureau of Investigation said they also have exhumed the first person Hansen killed, a woman who has come to be known as "Eklutna Annie." She is the last of Hansen's 17 victims to remain unidentified — almost four decades after he was arrested.
She was killed in the fall of 1979 and her body was found in 1980 along a power line trail.
Her remains were exhumed in 2003 to collect a DNA sample from her bones, and her profile was also put in the federal missing person databank, but with no success. Authorities are hoping to ascertain her identity through genetic genealogy.
"The Alaska Department of Public Safety will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to solve major crimes in our state, hold anyone that violates our laws accountable," said Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell.