Jesse Aylward was confirmed as Virginia Hannon’s killer on Thursday after DNA evidence connected him to the crime scene of Hannon’s brutal death on February 13, 1984.
Hannon, a cook at an Bryantville Elementary School, was found dead in her Pembroke, Massachusetts home 37 years ago. She was 59-years-old at the time of her death, was living alone and had been beaten, strangled and stabbed.
Although detectives continuously searched for Hannon’s killer, a lead in the case didn’t arise until a tipster called the police in February of last year and claimed that Aylward had confessed to killing someone in Pembroke several years earlier. However, Aylward died after admitting to the murder and police were left to determine whether or not he was actually responsible for Hannon’s slaying.
Aylward, who died last year at the age of 58, grew up in Pembroke and lived near Hannon. According to authorities, Aylward had a criminal history that spanned from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. Yet, Hannon’s family have struggled to connect why Aylward would have wanted to kill an elementary school “lunch lady.”
“There’s a lot of questions that we still would like to answer, and we may never get all of the answers,” said Rick Wall, the former police chief in Pembroke, while speaking at a news conference with Hannon’s family on Thursday. “But we’re never going to stop looking for exactly what happened and be able to give them the truth.”
In 2019, investigators discovered that DNA samples that were taken from the crime scene were connected to an unknown man. The evidence that had been tested included the nylon stockings that were used to strangle Hannon, bloody paper towels and broken glass from the door of her house.
Police attempted to utilize forensic genealogy to identify the criminal, but the genetic evidence did not point to any viable relatives. Timothy J. Cruz, the Plymouth County district attorney, stated that it was fortunate that the anonymous tip was made the day after Aylward died because authorities were able to collect samples from his body while it was still in the hospital.
Once the DNA samples collected from Aylward were compared to those that were taken from the crime scene, it quickly became apparent who had committed the murder.
“We have exhausted all of the evidence that we currently have,” said Cruz, “and it all points in the direction of Jesse Aylward.”
Richard Hannon, Hannon’s nephew, thanked the police for continuing to pursue his aunt’s case and providing him with a little bit of closure— even though Aylward’s motive for murder still remains unknown. Nonetheless, Richard hopes that someone who knew Aylward might call the police and provide new information about the killing.
“Somebody will remember, I believe,” he said. “Somebody will be brave enough to come forward.”