Thursday, June 5, 2003

Wife killer gets death sentence



The Associated Press

DELAWARE, Ohio - A man was sentenced to death for the killings of his fourth wife and a longtime friend who prosecutors said helped kill the first two wives.

Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Everett Krueger followed the jury's recommendation Wednesday in sentencing Gerald Hand. Jurors could have recommended a life sentence without chance of parole.

Hand, 54, said he would try to be a model inmate if sentenced to life in prison. "Like most men, I fear death," he told the jury.

His son, Robbie, tearfully asked jurors to spare his father's life.

"He's the only person I have left to guide me," the 25-year-old said.

Hand was convicted Friday of killing his wife, Jill, 58, and friend Walter "Lonnie" Welch, 55, on Jan. 15, 2002, at the couple's home north of Columbus.

Prosecutors also suspect him in the deaths of his first two wives, but he has not been charged. They said in the trial that Welch helped Hand kill his first two wives and Hand shot him to death to keep him quiet.

Hand said he shot Welch in self-defense after his wife was shot. He denied involvement in any of his wives' deaths.

Donna Hand, 27, and Lori Hand, 21, died in 1976 and 1979 at the same house in Columbus. Prosecutors said Gerald Hand profited from insurance money for each of the deaths. A third marriage ended in divorce.

The jury found Hand guilty of aggravated murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated murder and escape.

His attorneys have said they plan to appeal.




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