IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. -- Troutman police and the Massachusetts State Police worked together to arrest and charge a Troutman man in the 1986 murder of a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl.
According to the Plymouth County (Mass.) district attorney, 15-year-old Tracy Gilpin disappeared from her home and was reported missing by family members back in October 1986. Gilpin's body was found weeks later at a park in Plymouth, Mass.
Gilpin's death was ruled a homicide after an autopsy showed she had a massive skull fracture, said the district attorney. For the last 32 years, police in Massachusetts have continued the investigation into the murder of Gilpin.
As a result of the investigation, a state trooper assigned to the Plymouth County District's Attorney's Office traveled to North Carolina, according to authorities. On Friday, police arrested 61-year-old Michael Hand at his home in Troutman.
Hand was charged as a fugitive from justice based on an arrest warrant for the murder of Gilpin, said the Plymouth County District's Attorney's Office.
Authorities have begun rendition proceedings to bring him back to Massachusetts to be prosecuted for Gilpin’s murder, according to the Massachusetts State Police.
Massachusetts State Police Colonel Kelly A. Gilpin, Tracy's sister, released a statement following Hand's arrest:
“My family and I would like to thank Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz, the Plymouth County State Police Detective Unit, the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab, the Kingston and Plymouth Police Departments, police in North Carolina, and all of the investigators who have worked diligently over the last 31 years to solve Tracy’s murder.
We are also extremely grateful to the members of the public who have provided information to investigators.
For the past three decades, we have remained hopeful that Tracy’s murderer would be identified. 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.”