The 1984 killing of a 59-year-old woman in Pembroke has finally been solved, Massachusetts State Police and the Plymouth District Attorney's Office said Thursday.
Virginia Hannon's alleged killer, Jesse Aylward of Brockton, is dead and was turned in by a friend the day after he died in February 2020 at the age of 58, Plymouth District Attorney Tim Cruz said. DNA confirmed Aylward's involvement.
"No one in this room ever gave up on finding out who committed this heinous crime," Cruz said at a news conference. "Without the DNA we wouldn’t know who did it."
Aylward allegedly told a friend in 2019 that he had killed a woman in Pembroke decades ago. The friend went to Pembroke police when Aylward died.
Investigators got a blood sample from Aylward's body at Brockton Hospital and matched his DNA to three items of evidence from the crime scene, including broken glass from the door, nylon stockings and bloody paper towels, authorities said.
The motive for the murder remains unknown. Alyward was never on investigators' radar, authorities said, but he grew up near where Hannon lived.
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He had a criminal past, investigators said, but didn't specify what that was.
Members of Hannon's family were on hand for Thursday's announcement by the district attorney, thankful the day had finally come and crediting the hard work of detectives
Some were emotional as they spoke of Hannon on Thursday, saying the announcement provides some closure but they still believe more people out there know something after 39 years.
"It was senseless. They got nothing, they just killed her for whatever,” said Richard Hannon, Virginia's nephew.
Hannon, a widow who lived alone, was inside her home on West Street in Pembroke on Feb. 12, 1984, when someone broke into the building, beat, stabbed and strangled her. Her body was left covered in a sheet on the bed.
No arrests were ever made, but police continued to work the case in the decades since.
Hannon was a cook and lunch lady for a local elementary school, but retired when she was left some family inheritance. Her family thinks there are still others out there who know more than they're saying.
"I don't think this is it. I think there's more to the story and were praying people come forward with this information," said Judy Hannon, Virginia's niece by marriage.
Investigators have exhausted all evidence in the case, but they said that, if anyone has any other information, they welcome that.