Man Arrested in 1986 Murder of Massachusetts Teen (Multi-Video)

Michael A. Hand was arrested on Friday for the 1986 murder of a 15-year-old girl. (Image courtesy of the Iredell County Sheriff's Office)
Michael A. Hand was arrested on Friday for the 1986 murder of a 15-year-old girl. (Image courtesy of the Iredell County Sheriff's Office)

By Maggie Astor, The New York Times

For more than three decades, the killing of Tracy Gilpin remained unsolved.

But on Sunday, the authorities in Plymouth County, Mass., announced a breakthrough: They had made an arrest.

Two days earlier and 700 miles away, the police in Troutman, N.C., helped Massachusetts state troopers arrest Michael A. Hand, 61.

Rendition proceedings are underway to bring Mr. Hand back to Massachusetts, where he will be charged with murder, according to the office of the Plymouth County district attorney, Timothy J. Cruz.

(An arrest has been made in the unsolved murder of Tracy Gilpin, the sister of Massachusett’s State Police Colonel Kerry Gilpin. Courtesy of CBS Boston and YouTube. Posted on Mar 11, 2018)

Ms. Gilpin, of Kingston, Mass., was 15 when she disappeared on Oct. 1, 1986.

Three weeks later, her body was found in a park in neighboring Plymouth. Her skull was fractured, and her cause of death was determined to have been blunt head trauma, probably sustained the night she vanished.

Her older sister, Col. Kerry Gilpin, went on to become the superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police.

On Sunday, Colonel Gilpin praised the many law enforcement agencies that worked to identify and arrest a suspect.

“For the past three decades, we have remained hopeful that Tracy’s murderer would be identified,” Colonel Gilpin said in a statement.

“The much-welcomed news of an arrest in the case leaves us cautiously optimistic that justice for Tracy is within reach. My thoughts today are not just with my own family, but also with all the families who have lost loved ones to violence.”

“We will continue to work tirelessly to find justice for all murder victims.”

(Family members continued to search for answers in the 1986 murder of 15-year-old Tracy Gilpin. The teen left a party in Kingston, Massachusetts and was found dead three weeks later. Courtesy of MassLive and YouTube. Posted on Sep 6, 2017)

Mr. Hand’s neighbors on Klutz Street in Troutman described him as argumentative and unable to hold down a job.

“He was always hard up for money,” Shirley Parker, 81, said in a phone interview on Monday.

Ms. Parker has known Mr. Hand for about a decade, she said, ever since he moved to the neighborhood. She recalled him walking around with a gun on his hip, before he eventually dropped the habit.

Courtesy of Dateline

“He was different from Southerners. He was loud, and he always had an opinion,” she said.

He lived alone with his dog and had a collection of “nice guns,” she said.

Calvin Ostwalt, 68, who lived across the street from Mr. Hand, said he tried to avoid Mr. Hand whenever possible.

“He really had a problem getting along with people,” Mr. Ostwalt said in a phone interview.

When Mr. Hand moved to the neighborhood, he told Mr. Ostwalt and other neighbors that he was a former police officer who had been placed in the witness protection program, Mr. Ostwalt recalled.

It was not clear what led investigators to Mr. Hand.

statement released by the district attorney’s office said only that “information was developed” as a result of work by the Massachusetts State Police, the Plymouth Police Department and the Kingston Police Department.

Mr. Hand was in custody at the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina, where he appeared in court on Monday. He does not have a lawyer and is representing himself, the sheriff’s office said.

“Mr. Hand waived rendition in North Carolina, and we are in the process of returning to Massachusetts with him,” Beth Stone, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, said in an email on Monday.

When the murder happened 32 years ago, it rattled Kingston, a suburban town about 40 miles south of Boston, in the way only the unsolved murder of a child can.

“It made people more conscious of their decisions, I think, making sure not to walk alone,” Colonel Gilpin said in an interview with NBC News last year.

“Was someone just snatching people off the side of the road? No one knew.”

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Editor’s note: Our thoughts continue to be with the family of Tracy Gilpin. Thank you to all those who continued on tirelessly on the this case over the many years. Your efforts are greatly appreciated by all.