Martha Hansen and Evan Curtis [Palm Print Conviction] Forensic Files Case Study

FieldCase Information
Date of IncidentAugust 7, 1996
Region and LocationAnchorage, Alaska
Forensic Files CasePalm Print Conviction, Season 7, Episode 26
VictimMartha Californsky Hansen
SuspectEvans Lee Curtis
CulpritEvans Lee Curtis
Type of CrimeAssault, murder
Modus OperandiLured and assaulted the victim
Forensic EvidencePalm prints, blood on clothing, boots, CCTV, Bite-mark
Forensic Techniques UsedFingerprint analysis, DNA analysis, CCTV footage analysis
Charged ForFirst-degree murder
Punishment99 years in prison
Where is NowIncarcerated in Alaska Department of Corrections, Anchorage

On a summer day August 7, 1996, something really bad happened in Anchorage, Alaska. Everyone in the town was shocked. A lady named Martha Californsky Hansen (48 yrs), a mother to six children, faced a tragic event after she met someone while leaving a bar. Sadly, she didn’t survive.

Police found Martha’s body on August 8, 1996, near a downtown office building in Anchorage. The body was severely injured making visual identification impossible. Police have no clue about the identity of the body. However, while searching the crime scene, investigators were able to retrieve forensic evidence such as partial palm prints from the skin, blood, and long orange tint hairs.

Autopsy shows multiple injury marks and death occurred within 24 hours. The body was 5’22” tall, 30-40 years old, and around 100 LBS weight. Investigators also searched for the missing women list of that day but had no luck. Soon, the case quickly gained attention when the Juneau Empire, a newspaper, publicized it. Before long, the entire town was discussing the story of Martha.

However, even after days of effort, investigators had no leads.

Totally a dead end.

An important and leading breakthrough came from an unexpected source— CCTV footage from a bar in Anchorage. During the analysis of digital video footage, Martha was successfully identified as leaving the bar. At the bar’s gate, she had a friendly encounter with “someone known”.

The someone known, prime suspect was found to be Evans Lee Curtis, a 22-year-old male from Anchorage. He also had long orange-tinted hair. Other than that there were forensic clues that were proven to be super important in catching Curtis and linking him to crime:

  • Fingerprint Matching: Using superglue fuming technique a partial palm print was recovered and compared from Martha’s thigh. Guess what? It matched Curtis’s left hand.
  • Orange-tinted hair: Hair was analyzed and they appeared identical under the microscope.
  • DNA Testing: Investigators found Martha’s blood on Curtis’s pants and in his boot.
  • Forensic experts also extracted the DNA from a blood sample and it also matched with Curtis, linking him to the crime scene.

With all this forensic evidence, Curtis couldn’t really defend himself. Here’s what happened next:

Conviction: Curtis was found guilty of killing Martha and sentenced to 99 years of prison time, starting from September 21, 1997.

Aspect of Martha’s LifeDetails
Age & Residence48 years old, Anchorage, Alaska
Family StatusDivorced mother of six
PersonalityTrusting and friendly
DisappearanceMissing for two days before being reported
Who was Martha Hansen

Martha Hansen was a 48-year-old woman living in Anchorage, Alaska. She was a divorced mother of six children. Martha’s life, marked by the challenges of unemployment, was a testament to her resilience and strength as a single parent. Her role as a mother was central to her identity, shaping much of her daily life and interactions.

Personal Traits

Martha was known in her community for her trusting and open nature. She had a unique ability to connect with people, showing a level of trust and openness. Her warmth and friendliness were remembered by those who knew her, painting a picture of a woman who welcomed the world with open arms.

Circumstances of Disappearance

She had been missing for two days before her children reported her absence. This delay in reporting her missing complicated the initial stages of the investigation, as it hindered the timely identification of her as the victim.

  • Missing Duration: Martha was missing for two days.
  • Report Delay: Her children reported her missing after two days, which delayed her identification.
  • Impact on Case: This delay complicated the investigation.
Who was Evans Lee Curtis And His Punishment

Evans Lee Curtis emerged as the only suspect in the case of Martha Hansen’s death. At the time of the investigation, Curtis was unemployed and had a clean slate with no prior arrests. His lack of a criminal record initially made him an unlikely suspect. These are the keynotes about Curtis:

  • Evans Lee Curtis: Prime suspect in Martha Hansen’s murder
  • Employment Status: Unemployed
  • Criminal Record: No prior arrests

Connection to the Victim:

  • Acquaintance: Curtis knew Martha’s daughter.
  • Initial Meeting: They met at a dinner party, a few weeks before the murder.


  • Guilty Plea: Curtis pleaded guilty to Martha’s murder.
  • Sentence: 99 years in prison

Following are the four main reasons that could be the reason why Curtis committed such a crime.

Reason 1: Rejection Leading to Violence

  • Possible Scenario: Curtis might have made an unwanted advance toward Martha, which she rejected.
  • Resulting Violence: His reaction to the rejection could have escalated into a violent confrontation.

Reason 2: Impulse and Lack of Control

  • Sudden Outburst: Curtis might have acted on a sudden, violent impulse, possibly fueled by alcohol or other substances.
  • Lack of Self-Control: This could indicate a lack of self-control or a propensity for violence in certain situations.

Reason 3: Opportunistic Crime in a Secluded Area

  • Circumstances of the Crime: Martha encountered Curtis after leaving a bar.
  • Isolation Strategy: Curtis might have intentionally led Martha to a secluded area, away from potential witnesses.
  • Preying on Vulnerability: Martha’s intoxicated state could have made her an easier target for Curtis’s violent intentions.

Reason 4: Pre-existing Personal Grudge

  • Past Interaction: There might have been a previous interaction between Curtis and Martha that led to a grudge.
  • Act of Revenge: It could have been an act of revenge, stemming from anything that Curtis didn’t like in the past.

Read Similar Case: Patrick Walsh & Pamela Sweeney [Flower Power] Forensic Files Case Study

Evidence TypeLocation Where It Was FoundSignificance in the Case
Partial Palm PrintOn Martha’s ThighMatched to Evans Lee Curtis, directly linking him to the victim.
Hair SamplesOn low-hanging branches at the sceneUnique characteristics matched under a microscope to Curtis, placing him at the crime scene.
Blood EvidenceOn Curtis’s Pants and in his boot’s creviceDNA matched to Martha Hansen, indicating Curtis’s physical contact and presence at the crime scene.
Bite MarksOn the chest areaSign of assault
Toxicology ReportFrom blood during autopsyBlood-alcohol level (BAC) is .308 (4x legal limit)
Video Surveillance FootageFrom the bar Martha visited before her disappearanceHelped in identifying Martha Hansen
Toxicology ReportFrom Martha Hansen’s bodyIndicated high alcohol levels, suggesting her vulnerable state at the time of the attack.
Investigator/ExpertRole in the Case
Captain Bill GiffordLed the investigation; decided to employ the super glue fuming method on skin.
Janeice AmickCriminalist, Hair analyst expert
Jim WolfeForensic Analyst, Conducted DNA test from boots
Leo BrandlenHomicide Investigator
David R. WallaceProsecutor; convicted Curtis
Charles ColmanLatent Print Examiner, ATF; compare palm prints in the case.
Forensic Analysis and Techniques Used in the Martha and Evans Case

1. Super Glue Fuming Method

  • Forensic Technique and Instrument Used: Cyanoacrylate Fuming
  • General Use: Typically used to develop latent fingerprints on non-porous surfaces.
  • Working Principle: The cyanoacrylate in super glue connects with the moisture present in latent fingerprints. This reaction forms a visible white polymer fingerprint.
  • Significance in the Case: Used to reveal the killer’s palm print on Martha Hansen’s skin, a groundbreaking application of this technique on a human body. [Read More: Latent Fingerprints on Human Skin: How Long They Can Be Found? And Their Development]

2. Palm Print Analysis

  • Forensic Technique and Instrument Used: Fingerprint Matching by manual one-to-one comparison.
  • General Use: For identifying individuals based on the unique ridge patterns.
  • Working Principle: Fingerprint analysis involves comparing the ridge patterns on the fingers, which are unique to each individual.
  • Significance in the Case: In the Martha Hansen case, a partial palm print was found on her thigh that was matched to Evans Lee Curtis’s left hand. [Read More: Palm Print Recognition System: Need, Uses, and Working]

3. Hair Analysis

  • Forensic Technique and Instrument Used: Microscopic Hair Analysis
  • General Use: This technique is used to compare hair samples to find the degree of individuality.
  • Working Principle: Examining the microscopic characteristics of hair strands, including color, length, and texture.
  • Significance in the Case: Long hairs with an unusual orange tint conclusively matched Curti’s distinctive hair.

Read More: How does dog hair help in solving the case of John Helble & Andy Rich?

4. DNA Evidence Analysis from Blood on Curtis’s Pants and Boots

  • Forensic Technique and Instrument Used: DNA Fingerprinting and Profiling
  • General Use: Identifying individuals
  • Working Principle: Comparing the specific DNA regions among different DNA profiles.
  • Significance in the Case: Blood found on Curtis’s pants and in the crevice of his boot was conclusively matched to Martha Hansen’s DNA.

Everyone leaves their traces, and as investigators, one has to find them. This is the most defining moment of the case.

Thanks to the initial strategy to search the crime scene led by investigator Bill Gifford. Only his decision to set up a tent for on-site fingerprint development. And with the superglue method, they retrieved the partial palm prints that might get destroyed if disturbed.

So, as a forensic expert, I can say that the super glue fuming method and its innovative on-site application help the case more in conclusive linking the suspect to the case.

While talking about the psychological aspects of the case, it’s the pattern seen all too often, where uncontrolled anger and alcoholism impede the person’s ability to make the right decision.

In conclusion, the Evans Lee Curtis case is not just a story of a crime and its resolution; it’s a narrative about the application of forensic science and the unpredictable nature of rage-induced actions.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with this perspective, or do you see it differently? I’m eager to hear your views. Let’s discuss this in the comment.

1. What forensic technique was used to reveal the killer’s palm print on Martha Hansen’s skin?

  1. Latent Fingerprint Dusting
  2. Super Glue Fuming Method
  3. Ultraviolet Light Analysis
  4. Infrared Spectroscopy

Answer and Explanation

2. What type of evidence was important in linking Evans Lee Curtis to the crime scene?

  1. Fiber Analysis
  2. DNA Evidence
  3. Shoeprint Analysis
  4. All of the above

Answer and Explanation

3. Which unique feature of Curtis’s was found at the crime scene?

  1. A distinctive tattoo
  2. Long hairs with a yellow tint
  3. Long hairs with an orange tint
  4. Wallet

Answer and Explanation

4. How was the victim, Martha Hansen, identified?

  1. Partial Palm print
  2. DNA Testing
  3. CCTV footage
  4. All of the above

Answer and Explanation

5. What was the cause of death determined by the medical examiner?

  1. Too much loss of blood
  2. Blunt Force Trauma
  3. Stabbing
  4. Strangulation

Answer and Explanation

6. What innovative forensic technique was used for the first time for the development of fingerprints on the skin in this case?

  1. Super Glue Fuming on Skin
  2. DNA Phenotype
  3. Digital Facial Reconstruction
  4. Touch DNA Analysis

Answer and Explanation


  • Forensic Files – Season 7, Episode 26 – Palm Print Conviction [YouTube]
  • Martha’s Profile at Findagrave.
  • Forensic Fingerprints (Advanced Forensic Science Series)” by Max M. Houck​
  • Forensic Science: An Introduction” by Suzanne Bell
  • Forensic DNA Evidence Interpretation” (2nd Edition) by John S. Buckleton, Jo-Anne Bright, Duncan Taylor
  • Footwear Impression Evidence (Practical Aspects of Criminal and Forensic Investigations)” by William J. Bodziak [Google Books]

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