Michael Hand and Tracy Gilpin

Cold Case SOLVED? Suspect accused of killing young girl in 1986 is behind bars for her murder

After more than 30 years, the 1986 death of a Massachusetts teen may have been solved. A North Carolina man is behind bars in connection with the girl’s death.

FOX News reports that authorities arrested Michael Hand, 61, for the October 1986 murder of 15-year-old Tracy Gilpin. The victim disappeared after walking home from the store in Kingston, after refusing a ride from a man inside a jeep at the store’s parking lot.

According to a clerk who worked at the store on the night in question, Gilpin was using a payphone after purchasing cigarettes from the store, when a man in the jeep pulled up beside her and asked her if she needed a ride. She refused and began walking toward Cumberland Farms when she disappeared. Court records indicate that several weeks later, a woman walking her dog found Gilpin’s lifeless body in Plymouth, with severe blunt force trauma to her head.

It’s still unclear how authorities connected Hand to the crime, but he’s in the process of extradition from North Carolina to Massachusetts. Gilpin’s family is “cautiously hopeful” that they can finally have closure.

“For the past three decades, we have remained hopeful that Tracy’s murderer would be identified,” the victim’s sister, Mass State Police Colonel, Kerry 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.”

WSOCTV reports that the station spoke with the suspect’s neighbors in Troutman, North Carolina, who said Hand never spoke of Gilpin, although he apparently had ties to Massachusetts and went back to state numerous times over the years.

The story is still developing. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.

[Feature Photo: Michael Hand and Tracy Gilpin/Police Handout]