May 7 (UPI) -- Indiana authorities say DNA evidence helped crack a cold murder case involving a 19-year-old college student that lingered for almost 50 years before the accused killer was found.
Terre Haute, Ind., Police Chief Shawn Keen said Monday the forensic proof showed Jeffrey Lynn Hand was responsible for killing Pam Milam in 1972, and would've been sufficient to convict him of the woman's death. The genetic analysis also led police to discover that Hand died in a 1978 shootout with police, in connection with another case.
Officials used a DNA sample from Hand's son to link him to Milam's death. At the time of the crime, Hand was a 23-year-old delivery driver who traveled the Midwest and ended up at the Indiana State University campus. Keen said it's likely Milam was a random victim.
"I think he intercepted her," Keen said. "He was parked somewhere in the area."
Milam's body was found in the trunk of her car on Sept. 15, 1972. Her family became worried when she didn't return home that night. Her father spent the next day searching before he found her vehicle in an ISU parking lot. An autopsy showed she was strangled and had injuries to her head and face. She'd also been bound and gagged in the trunk.
Hand was implicated in two other abductions, one of which was deadly. Keen said a DNA lab wasn't able to make a firm identification until last year, after cooperation from the man's family.
Much of the detective work was done by an officer who wasn't alive when the crime occurred, officials said.
"I'm not sure we ever thought we'd be able to get here today," said Charlene Sanford, Milam's oldest sister.
The victim's parents, Charles and Helen Milam, died years ago.