Saturday, January 19, 2002

Three wives, three killings

Police get suspicious, reopen cases

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — After learning about the shooting death of a former Columbus man's current wife, police decided to take another look at the unsolved murders of his first two wives.

        Detectives with the cold-case squad reopened the other cases Thursday and began to share notes with authorities in Delaware County, where Gerald Hand now lives.

        “We have nothing to link them with the most recent homicide,” Columbus spokesman Sgt. Earl Smith said of the old cases. “We're hoping that someone out there who may have information on these old homicides might come forward.”

        No one was charged in either slaying. At the time, police said Mr. Hand was not home and had alibis.

        Sgt. Smith said detectives will not be discussing details of their investigation. “I can tell you they were under review prior to the homicide that occurred, and they are still reviewing the cases. ... Some of the old files have to be retrieved from archival records.”

        Sgt. Smith said Mr. Hand's first two wives died at the home they shared with Mr. Hand on the west side of Columbus. Donna Hand died March 24, 1976, and Lori Hand died Sept. 9, 1979.

        Tuesday night, Jill Hand, 58, was shot to death at the couple's home near Galena in Delaware County, north of Columbus.

        Mr. Hand told authorities she had been shot by Walter Welch of Columbus, who then was shot dead, purportedly by Mr. Hand.

        Mr. Welch was described by police as an acquaintance of Mr. Hand who once worked for him.

        “Obviously, (Columbus police) are working their cold cases and we're working ours,” Delaware County Sheriff Al Myers said Thursday. “We hope to get together (to look) for any similarities, if there are any similarities.”

        Donna Hand, 27, was found dead in the basement of the couple's home. Her head had been covered with a plastic dry-cleaning bag, and a wire had been wrapped around her neck.

        Lori Hand, 21, was found slain in the same basement. She had been strangled and shot in the head, a plastic bag over her head and blue jeans tied around her neck.

        Jill Hand was shot once in the head, Delaware County Coroner Daniel Traetow said. Mr. Welch, 55, was shot at least four times.

        Although Mr. Hand told authorities that he chased Mr. Welch out of his house and shot him from behind, Genoa Township Police Chief Robert Taylor said Thursday that the first bullet that hit Mr. Welch was fired inside the house.

        He also said authorities think Mr. Welch was facing Mr. Hand when he was shot.

        The other shots were fired as Mr. Welch ran out the door and into the front yard. He collapsed on a neighbor's driveway.


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