Gerald "Bob" Hand

I do not often do cases that are what I call spouse on spouse crimes.  Sadly, for someone like me who reads a lot of true crime, a spouse on spouse crime just does not have the "excitement" I am looking for and in order to blog about something I need to be "into" it.  We all know that the spouse or partner is the first person the police look at when there is a murder and more often than not they are correct, hence why they look there first. Now of course not all spouse on spouse crimes are literally committed by the other spouse, as there are plenty of "murder for hire" cases involving spouses too.  This case caught my eye though, not just in the vastness of the crimes the defendant committed but also in the legalities in which they were allowed in front of a jury.

On January 15, 2002 in the town of Galena Ohio at around 7:15 in the evening 911 dispatchers received a call from Gerald "Bob" Hand.  He was reporting that an intruder had come into his home and shot his wife and that he had shot the intruder.  Police and EMT's flocked to the scene.

Inside the home, between the kitchen and the front room lie the body of Gerald's fourth wife, Jill.  She had been shot in the forehead.  Outside, laying in the driveway of a neighbor was Walter "Lonnie" Welch.  He had been shot five times.  In the yard of the Hand home was a .32 caliber revolver.  Investigators first started talking to Gerald at the home and continued their interview at the hospital where Jill had been taken and would soon be pronounced dead.  Lonnie Welch had also died.

Gerald told the investigators that he had returned home about 6:45 and was in the bathroom when he heard his wife scream out his name.  He said he saw the shadow of the intruder and grabbed TWO .38 revolvers and started shooting at the person.  He claimed the man ran from the house and Gerald kept shooting, to which he saw him fall in the neighbors driveway.  He would tell investigators he did not know who the intruder was initially. Later, as they were leaving the home and he saw a vehicle in his own driveway and commented that it may have belonged to someone who used to work for him at a radiator shop he had once owned.

Gerald, better known as Bob, Hand had met his first wife, Donna in the late 1960's.  They were married in 1968 but by 1975 it seemed the marriage was faltering.  In November of that year Donna had written a letter to her sister saying she was concerned for her safety with Gerald and wanted a divorce.  In March of 1976 Gerald would claim to have returned home after spending time at the local YMCA to find his wife dead in the basement of the home.  She had a dry cleaner bag around her head and a spark plug wire around her neck. The crime scene and an autopsy would show that she had obviously not fallen down the steps but had three wounds to the back of her head from an unknown object.  Her cause of death was strangulation from the wire. There was no forced entry into the home and while there were a few drawers in the upstairs bedroom pulled out, the home did not appear to have been ransacked, nor had anything been taken.  Some how or another the cops determined she had "hung herself."  She was 28 years old. Gerald would receive nearly $70,000 from insurance as well as an additional $50,000 from the state's "Victim of Crime Compensation Fund."  I want to point out that other places stated that he received only $17,386 from insurance plus the additional $50,000 but according to appeals papers I found it stated $67,386 and $50,000.

In 1977 Gerald married 19 year old Lori.  Over the next two years they would have a son together and live in the home in which Donna had died.  It seemed to be common knowledge that Gerald's first wife had died in the basement of the home but apparently that did not bother Lori.  However, on September 9, 1979 she too would be found dead in the basement of the home she shared with her husband.  Lori was planning to host a baby shower at her home that afternoon and her mom showed up at the home around 9:30 but no one answered so she left a note on the door.  Gerald had left with the baby and Lori's brother about an hour earlier and they had spent the day at flea markets and car shows.  Lori's mom decided to go get some breakfast and returned again about 11 am.  When she got to the home she noticed the door was open and she heard some music playing. Her previous note was now on the ground. She entered the home hollering for her daughter but received no answer.  The only place left to look was the basement, and knowing Gerald's first wife had died down there, and feeling something was not right she could not bring herself to go look.  Instead she called Gerald's mother and she and his brother went to the home.  Gerald's brother would find Lori in the basement.  Like Donna she was found with a dry cleaner's bag over her head, but unlike Donna, Lori had two bullet wounds to the head. An autopsy would determine that she did not die from the gunshot wounds but from strangulation.  Again, there seemed to be no forced entry into the home but this time the home seemed a little more "gone through." Nothing in the home itself seemed to have been taken but Lori's vehicle was missing.  It would later be found about 3 blocks from the home.

Friends and family began to come forward and proclaim that Lori was unhappy in the marriage and had discussed the issue of divorce.  For his part Gerald would use the age old adage that they had a few issues but nothing serious and were deeply in love.  This time Gerald would receive $126,287 from five different life insurance policies he had on the young 21 year old mother.  It was said that he put in a claim to the Victims of Crime Compensation but it was denied, although I found no place in which anyone claimed to know why.  

Sometime after this Gerald would marry for a third time to a woman named Glenna.  Reports vary on just when they married and how long it lasted.  Some say they did not marry until 1989 while others say it was a few years after Lori and the marriage lasted 7-8 years.  I could confirm nothing either way on this. But Glenna would be the only one of Gerald Hand's wives to leave the marriage with her life and she would claim that was because she left solely with the clothes on her back and went into hiding.

In 1989 Jill Randolph's husband Gary died of cancer.  She had three grown children.  Jill was an employee at the BMV and was financially stable and fiscally responsible.  She met Gerald Hand about 1991.  They were married in October of 1992.  For his part Gerald owned a radiator company that he had bought in the mid-70's from his dad. When Jill and Gerald married he moved into to Jill's home.  All seemed to be going well until family and friends claim that Jill discovered in 2001 that not only was Gerald not as financially stable as she was, he was racking up debt on top of debt and even bringing down her credit.  She learned he was over $200,000 in debt and then he took a credit card out in her name and add thousands to that.  She also discovered that his radiator business, something she had not really had anything to do with was actually not making any money.  Family and friends also claim that it was around the time of the murder that Jill was considering a divorce.  But now here she was shot in her home.

It did not take investigators long to discover Gerald's story was not adding up very well.  First, he kept changing his story as to what happened.  It was discovered that he had blood droplets on his clothing that matched up to Lonnie Welch yet Gerald had claimed to basically be shooting at him from a large distance.  Gerald had also told investigators that the two .38 caliber guns he had used had both misfired as he tried to shoot so he was unsure how many rounds he had shot off.  When told of Lonnie's identity Gerald admitted that he knew him and that he had worked for him off and on at the radiator shop.  But, he claimed he did not know him that well and told investigators that Lonnie was a cocaine addict and a thief (both of which were apparently true it seems).  

So investigators did some more digging and one of the first things they found out is that this "grieving" widow had three past wives and two of them had not made it out of the marriage alive. Okay... the guy has some bad luck, maybe he did not tell because he wanted the focus on where it should be, the death of Jill. Then investigators found something they could not just brush off.  They found a picture of Gerald and Lori at their wedding in 1977 and who is in the picture with them?  None other than Walter "Lonnie" Welch. AND he was the best man. So now investigators really know he's lied to them.  When confronted Gerald tried to continue to say he did not know Lonnie that well and that the only reason he had been the best man was he had no one else when his brother had not come.  Investigators were not buying it.

So, they made their way around to Lonnie's family and what they discover turned the case upside down.  Lonnie's family would claim that as early as the fall of 1979 he had told at least one cousin (if not more) that he had killed Donna and Lori for "Bob" as he called him.  Another relative stated that around the time of Lori's death Lonnie seemed to have a lot of cash which was odd for him since he rarely kept a long term job and definitely did not have the means to buy some of the things they saw him with.

According to Lonnie's brother around July or August of 2001 Lonnie had asked him if he knew where to get a gun and told him of the offer to kill Jill for money. He claimed from then on he asked about a gun at least, if not twice, a week. Lonnie had been in jail for some sort of "traffic violation" from December 21, 2001 until January 3, 2002.  His brother approached Gerald about helping with bail money but was told that he could not have contact with Lonnie because they had some "business" together. It was also reported that while he was in jail he had told a cellmate that he was "taking someone out for this guy named Bob" and he needed a driver.  He offered the man $5,000 and gave him his number.  

The day before Jill was murdered Lonnie's girlfriends' daughter claims he told her he was going to buy her mother a new car because he was getting a bunch of money the next day and that he felt bad he had not gotten her anything for Christmas since he was in jail.  The following day there was a family get together and another relative stated that Lonnie said he may have to help "Bob" that evening and when he left he said he was picking up some money and would be right back.  Lonnie never returned.  He never got past the driveway next door to the Hand home.

The .32 caliber gun that was in the Hand yard and the two .38 calibers that Gerald had claimed to use were all tested.  It was determined that the .32 had been used to kill Jill.  Although, I never found any information to say if it was discovered who owned or even had the gun, but apparently it was presumed it belong to or was in the possession of Gerald Hand.  The .38 caliber weapons were test fired and it was reported that neither misfired as Gerald had insisted. They were used in the shooting of Lonnie Welch.  But, they determined that Lonnie Welch was injured before he ever left the Hand home.  There was a blood trail leading from just inside the house, outside the door, to his body.  He had been shot in the mouth, the left side of his upper chest, his left forearm, his right shoulder and in his lower back.  It was said that while the lower back shot was likely the last since it hit his spine and would have left him paralyzed, hence his fall, that it was the shot in the chest that had been the fatal shot.

Discovering all of this Gerald Hand was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated murder.  By the time he went to trial in June of 2003, he had added on an escape charge also.  Although admittedly while the tools were found and apparently a plan had been made it had not been carried out.  

Gerald Hand was only charged with the murders of his 4th wife, Jill and Walter "Lonnie" Welch.  But, the judge allowed the prosecutors to bring in the stories of both Donna and Lori.  This is very unusual, however I suspect that this was allowed because it fed into the motive they claimed for the death of Lonnie Welch. The prosecution theory was that Gerald Hand had in fact killed both Jill and Lonnie Welch.  They theorized that Jill's death was for the same reason he had his other wives killed... money, and that Lonnie had been lured over to the home, thinking that he was going to kill Jill and get money like he had the two times before but that Gerald killed him to keep him quiet and save him some money.  Had his plan worked he would have convinced authorities that Lonnie Welch had killed his wife and he would have walked off with close to a million dollars.  

The prosecution had a former cellmate testify that Gerald had confessed to killing both Jill and Lonnie and did so because Lonnie knew too much and instead of wanting the $25,000 he was going to give him, he wanted $50,000. 

Of course the defense did not agree with this theory, as defenses rarely do. They would continue to maintain that Lonnie Welch murdered Jill Hand and that Gerald had killed Lonnie Welch in self defense.  As far as the escape charge they tried to argue a little on that and had one of the conspirators testify that Gerald was not in on the plan (although the others said he was and contraband was found in his cell). 

The jury sided with the prosecutors and in June of 2003 Gerald "Bob" Hand was sentenced to death in Ohio and he currently sits on death row.  The last record I have found about appeals was filed in February of 2014 at the federal level as he has been denied all appeals at the state level.

Just as it is with most criminal cases the prosecution has to come up with a theory as to what happened that makes sense to give the jury.  Rarely do defendants tell the true story, especially those who go in front of a jury at trial since those are the people pleading not guilty.  It is rational that the prosecution has to put together a story based on the evidence but I have to be honest here and say I am unsure this one is completely right.  Do not get me wrong, I totally believe that Gerald Hand had three of his four wives killed and it's very likely that Lonnie Welch did those murders for him... including Jill's.  None of my research talked about anything that connected Gerald to the .32 caliber that was found in the yard and determined to have been used on Jill.  Nor did I find anything that suggested blood splatter on his clothes were related to Jill, only Lonnie (which he had to argue because the wounds as well as his clothes indicated he was closer to him than he claimed to be).  There was no talk about silencers being used.  So presumably in a close residential area it would have made more sense that all the gunshots happened near the same time or in succession.  It would make more sense that Lonnie shot Jill, just as he planned and Gerald shot him almost immediately after.  Now, of course in this scenario Gerald is just as much responsible for Jill's murder so legally it would have changed nothing but theory wise it makes more sense.  Otherwise we're to believe that when Lonnie got to the home that Jill was already dead and and Gerald ambushed him OR Gerald shot them both one right after another as they were standing there with different guns and then threw the one he shot Jill with in the yard.  Again, it really changes nothing legally and in my opinion Gerald "Bob" Head is exactly where he should be but I just do not think the prosecution scenario fits well.  

The saddest thing about this murder is that had investigators really seemed to care about Donna or Lori's murders, Gerald, and or Lonnie would have been caught long before Jill even met Gerald Hand.  I find it completely unbelievable that Donna's murder was at one time ruled a suicide.  Who puts a bag over their head and chokes themselves with a wire?  Then who puts a bag over their head (likely knowing that's how the last woman in that basement was) and shoots themselves not once but twice in the head? Not to mention women are less likely to commit suicide with a gun than by other means such as pills or poison.  

Comments

  1. I worked with Jill and I knew Bob. My husband was an auctioneer and Bob would come to the auctions long before he married Jill.

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