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Man charged in brutal cold case murder held without bail

Michael Hand (WJAR)

A North Carolina man charged in the 1986 murder of a 15-year-old girl made his first court appearance in Massachusetts Wednesday.

Michael Hand, 61, pleaded not guilty to the killing.

Massachusetts State Police Superintendent Col. Kerry Gilpin had been waiting for this day for more than 30 years.

Her sister, Tracy Gilpin, was murdered and found in the Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth Oct. 22, 1986. She had disappeared three weeks prior to her killing. The Gilpins lived in Kingston.

Prosecutor Jennifer Sprague told the judge Hand changed his story several times when interviewed by detectives. Sprague said Hand admitted he knew Gilpin from the neighborhood and saw her the night she disappeared. He then admitted to police that he went into the woods with Gilpin.

Prosecutors said Hand blamed Henry Meinholz for Gilpin’s death. Meinholz, who died in 2000, was convicted in the murder of 13-year-old Melissa Benoit.

“He eventually picked up the rock and he turned back to Mr. Meinholz and dropped the rock two feet. He heard a thud and then when he looked the rock was on Ms. Gilpin’s head,” Sprague said in court.

Police arrested Hand at his home in Troutman, North Carolina earlier this month. A DNA test will be performed on the rock to determine if it links Hand to the crime.

Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz said he is confident his investigators have caught Gilpin's killer.

"I don't arrest people for homicide unless I'm sure the people did it," Cruz told NBC 10 News. "I think based on the circumstances we have right now we have the individual who was involved in the homicide of Tracy Gilpin."

Cruz said detectives received several leads involving Hand over the years.

The judge held Hand without bail. His next court appearance is scheduled for April 13.

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