Widow's Cold-Case Slaying Solved with Deathbed Confession: 'It's Nice to Have a Name,' Family Says
Virginia Hannon was living alone in 1984 when she was beaten, strangled and fatally stabbed
Investigators in Massachusetts announced this week that the vicious, decades-old slaying of Virginia "Ginny" Hannon had at last been solved — though the killer himself is now dead.
According to a statement from the Plymouth District Attorney's Office, the 59-year-old Pembroke woman was found beaten, strangled and stabbed to death in her home on Feb. 13, 1984.
Hannon, who had worked as a lunch lady, was widowed and lived alone when she was killed. Locals remembered her as a staple of the area, with a penchant for baking and dispensing treats to children and tending to the neighborhood’s stray animals.
Her homicide, however, went cold and stayed that way. But a little more than a year ago, a call from a friend of Jesse Aylward changed everything.
The call was made to police on Feb. 4, 2020. Aylward's friend told detectives that Aylward had confessed to killing Hannon prior to his death that month at an area hospital.
Aylward was 22 at the time of the brutal killing and 58 when he died. According to his friend, Aylward failed to offer up a motive for the violence during his confession.
Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.
After receiving the tip last year, authorities said, they matched DNA that had been preserved from Hannon's body with a sample from Aylward.
"Though this investigation has spanned more than 37 years, we have identified Virginia Hannon's killer and that is — it is Jesse Aylward," District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said during a Thursday press conference. "We have exhausted all of the evidence that we currently have, and it all points in the direction of Jesse Aylward."
Richard Hannon, Virginia's nephew, spoke during Thursday's press conference and said his aunt was a "great person" who was "happy" and "fun to be around." (Aylward’s obituary, published before the revelation of his violence, described him as a "skilled handyman" with a "unique personality.")
"She was my friend," Richard’s wife, Judy, told The Patriot Ledger. "I'm so glad they finally have someone. Would I like to see him taken away in handcuffs? Yes. Because that's what he deserves.”
At the press conference, Richard lauded the unrelenting work of investigators in his aunt’s case, finally bringing closure to his family.
"It's nice to have a name, to see the effort that they put in wasn't wasted," he said. "Maybe it will jar someone's memory, come forward and say something."