A family member described Aylett Hanson, the 31-year-old man found dead in his car in a Spenard parking lot Thursday, as a fun-loving free spirit who loved animals and the outdoors.
Police are investigating Hanson's death as a homicide. Hanson, of Anchorage, first went missing around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, said his cousin, Brittany Hales.
Family and friends were searching for him when someone saw a tweet from police on Thursday that a body had been found in Spenard, Hales said.
Hanson was found in his black 2012 Mazda 5, the window smashed in, she said. The car was parked in a business parking lot at the 2600 block of Spenard Road, in sight of the Bear Tooth Theatrepub. Police and paramedics responded to a call at 3:24 p.m. Thursday and pronounced Hanson dead at the scene.
Anchorage police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said that incident was still under investigation. An autopsy was planned for Friday.
The death has left Hanson's family and friends searching for answers and asking the public for more information.
"He was just an all-around great guy," Hales said in a phone interview. "He has many, many friends who are completely shocked by this."
She said Hanson, who was about to turn 32 on Sunday, was a capable handyman who worked construction in the summer and odd jobs in the winter. He loved fireworks displays in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, she said.
He took his black cat, Ninja, wherever he went, in the car and on canoeing trips. The cat had a leash, and rode on his shoulder during hikes to Flattop Mountain or Rainbow Valley.
The cat was at Hanson's sister's house when Hanson was killed, Hales said. Hanson was living with family at the time of his death.
Hales said family and friends aren't sure why Hanson was in Spenard, and can't think of a motive for the attack.
Anyone with information about the incident can contact Anchorage Police Department at 786-8900.
Reach Devin Kelly at email@example.com or 257-4314.
By DEVIN KELLY