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North Carolina man arrested for 1986 slaying of 15-year-old Tracy Gilpin

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 3/12/2018 By Cristela Guerra

Tracy Gilpin, in photo, was murdered in October 1986.

Tracy Gilpin, in photo, was murdered in October 1986.
© Suzanne Kreiter/globe staff
More than 31 years after 15-year-old Tracy Gilpin was found slain at Myles Standish Forest in Plymouth authorities announced Sunday that a North Carolina man has been charged with her murder.

Michael Hand, 61, was arrested Friday at his home in Troutman, NC based on information developed during an ongoing investigation by Massachusetts State Police, Plymouth and Kingston Police, Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz announced Sunday.

The major breakthrough in one of Plymouth County’s oldest active unsolved cases comes several months after the victim’s sister, Kerry A. Gilpin, became the head of the Massachusetts State Police. On Sunday she issued a statement on behalf of her family thanking investigators who tirelessly worked the investigation and members of the public who have provided information.

“For the past three decades, we have remained hopeful that Tracy’s murderer would be identified,” Colonel Gilpin said. “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.”

Family members reported Tracy Gilpin missing Oct. 1, 1986. She was last seen near her Kingston, MA home after she left a party to buy cigarettes. Her body was found nearly a month later in nearby Plymouth at the edge of the woods in Myles Standish State Forest. Cause of death was found to be a massive skull fracture.

Hand previously lived in Kingston.

In a statement Sunday announcing Hand’s arrest, Cruz did not disclose what evidence had led investigators to him. Cruz said State Police assigned to his office, along with Plymouth and Kingston Police, have never stopped investigating the teenager’s slaying.

As a result of that investigation, Cruz said information was developed that prompted Massachusetts State Troopers to travel to North Carolina to arrest Hand on Friday.

Hand was charged as a fugitive from justice based on an arrest warrant issued in Plymouth County charging him with the murder of Tracy Gilpin.

“Our office will be seeking to have Hand brought back to Massachusetts from North Carolina through the initiation of rendition proceedings,” Cruz said.

Colonel Gilpin thanked Cruz, State Police detectives assigned to the DA’s office, the State Police Crime lab, police in Kingston, Plymouth, North Carolina, and “all of the investigators who have worked diligently over the last 31 years to solve Tracy’s murder.”

She also said the family was extremely grateful to members of the public who provided information to investigators.

In a 2017 story about her sister’s unsolved murder, Gilpin told the Globe she believed someone would be brought to justice.

“It’s been 30 years. I know it’s solvable,” she said. “In my heart of hearts, I know that person is out there.”

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