On The Case With Paula Zahn is investigating the murder of college student Pamela Milam by Jeffrey Hand in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1972.
The case lay unsolved for a horrific 47 years before scientific advances in DNA forensic science led the police to Jeffrey Hand.
Pamela was a 19-year-old co-ed at Indiana State University when she vanished. She was last seen alive leaving a sorority event on September 15, 1972. Her remains were found the next day in the trunk of her car. She had been bound, gagged, and sexually assaulted.
Around the time of the murder, there had been several abductions and sexual assaults of students from the university campus. In each case, the victim was forced into a car and sexually assaulted before being dropped back to the campus. The cops felt pretty sure that this must be the same guy who murdered Pamela.
Approximately seven months later, the police had a breakthrough when they arrested Robert Wayne Austin for the sexual assaults. However, they were unable to pin him to the murder.
And in 2001, the police were able to build a DNA profile of the killer from Pamela’s blouse and fingerprints from her glasses and car door. The profile did not match Austin, and Pamela’s family would have to wait another 18 years to find answers.
Genetic genealogy led the cops to identify Jeffrey Hand as the killer
In 2017, the Terre Haute police began working with a company that specializes in genetic genealogy. They submitted the killer’s DNA to a database, which allowed them to identify relatives of the murderer. They then interviewed family members before narrowing it down to Jeffrey Hand.
Unfortunately, Hand never got to answer directly for Pamela’s brutal murder, as he was killed in 1978 during a police shootout while attempting to abduct another victim.
Jeffrey Hand was a real nasty piece of work. He was arrested in 1973 after murdering a hitchhiker, but, incredibly, he was released in 1978 after the authorities found him not guilty due to insanity.
On hearing that the police had solved the murder, Pamela’s sister, Charlene Sanford, told reporters: “It’s been a long 46 years, seven months and 20 days. Many of us, as we got older, thought we would die before we ever learned who killed our sister. We were happy to know he hasn’t been out there living a great life for 47 years.”
More from On The Case With Paula Zahn
Follow the links to read about more murders examined by investigative journalist Paula Zahn.
Curtis Krueger was wracked with jealous rage that his fiancee was having sexual relations with Henry Stange in exchange for drugs. One day, Krueger snapped and beat Stange to death at his home.
Randy Baker was murdered by multiple members of his own family. His wife, Kelly Baker, and his sister, Carol Baker, with instrumental in planning the murder. Their motive appears to have been solely financial gain.
On The Case With Paula Zahn airs at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.