Investigators said they’ve solved a decades-old cold case murder of an Indiana college student thanks to new DNA testing and genealogy technology.
Police have identified Jeffrey Lynn Hand as the possible killer of Pamela Milam, a 19-year-old Indiana State University commuter student who was found bound and gagged in her vehicle nearly 50 years ago, authorities said Monday.
Milam vanished the night of Sept. 15, 1972, after leaving a university sorority event in Terre Haute, about 80 miles southwest of Indianapolis, police said.
Her family found her body in the trunk of her car on campus the next day, and police said she died of strangulation. There were no witnesses or clear suspects at the time.
Terre Haute Police Chief Shawn Keen said Hand died in a gunfight with police in 1978 during an attempted abduction.
“He tried to abduct another female as she was getting into her car at a mall parking lot,” Keen said during a press conference Monday. “Fortunately, this time there was an off-duty sheriff’s deputy there. A pursuit ensues, he shoots the sheriff’s deputy twice, and a city officer there shoot and kills him.”
Hand had a violent history that included murder, stalking and attempted abduction, according to Keen. He would have been in his early 20s at the time of Milam’s death.
“Based on genetic genealogy, he’s in the only position in the family tree to be my suspect,” Keen said. “He has a history of not only of stalking and selecting his victims from Terre Haute, but also killing them.”
Keen, who took over the cold case in 2008, said his team ran a “reverse paternity” test using DNA from Hand’s children and comparing it to DNA evidence from the murder scene.
The evidence, Keen said, would have been enough for prosecutors to charge Hand had he been alive.