Cold case killer linked to other Tri-State crimes
EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - After DNA testing, Jeffrey Hand of Princeton was linked this week to the killing of Indiana State Student, Pam Milum in 1972.
It wasn’t the only case Hand was linked to.
Hand was charged with murder in 1973 of a 22-year-old Evansville man, and was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.
14 News spoke with retired Indiana State Police crime scene investigator, Joe Rhodes, and the former Posey County deputy prosecutor on the case, Stan Levco.
“I was about a year out of law school and I think it was the second case I tried," Levco said.
The attorney explained Hand’s hitchhiking case was his first murder trial in his career, and it also happened to be the first death penalty case in Indiana after the state reinstated the penalty.
During our conversation with Rhodes, the retired Trooper pointed out a time before Hand’s trial when he was called to visit him in the Vanderburgh County jail.
“At one point (Hand) had claimed that someone else had done it, that he was there while someone else did it," Rhodes recounted. “Often times, I was called in to cases to draw witness descriptions. So, I went down to the Vanderburgh County jail, which is where (Hand) was being held. I sat with him in a room, and he described this person to me. Oddly enough, it looked like him. It looked a whole lot like him,” Rhodes chuckled.
Levco chimed in on the bizarre actions of Hand he remembered from time spent in court.
“I particularly remember one thing during the trial, or whether it was trial or the pre-trial,” Levco went on. “But, I remember he had a pencil in his hand, and he broke the pencil. He just snapped the pencil in half--not that it takes a lot of strength to do that--just, I’m guessing in my career I’ve never had anybody snap a pencil in half before,” Levco said. “It was just a strange thing. But, obviously (Hand) had a lot of this pent-up anger.”
Police say Hand kidnapped the Evansville couple hitch-hiking in Terre Haute near US 41 and Interstate 70, and drove them to a rural farm near Warrenton, which is in southern Gibson County.
Newspaper archives show police reported the 22-year-old Evansville woman got away and lead police back to the farm.
The woman’s husband, Jeffrey Wayne Thomas, was found dead in a wooded area in Posey County. Police said Thomas had been shot in the head and stabbed several times.
Hand was later found not guilty and a judge cleared him of the murder charge, finding him innocent by reason of insanity. Hand was then sent to live in the state mental hospital before being released in the late 70′s.
According to press reports, Hand was 28-years-old when he was shot and killed by a Kokomo deputy during a standoff in 1978.
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