New England's Unsolved

News of break in Pembroke cold case brings hope to other families

BOSTON — This week, Plymouth County DA Timothy Cruz announced a major break in the 1984 murder of Virginia Hannon.

The 59-year-old Hannon was found beaten and strangled in her bed on February 13, 1984.

Her case remained unsolved for decades.

But this week, DA Cruz revealed that a tipster told Pembroke police that his friend, Jesse Aylward confessed to him, in 2019, that he murdered someone in Pembroke “a long time ago.”

The tipster called police a year later, in 2020, the day after Aylward died in a Brockton hospital.

Aylward and Hannon did not know each other and Aylward was not on a list of possible suspects for Hannon’s murder.

But DNA recovered from the crime scene matched Aylward.

“We got a little justice today, knowing and having a name,” Judy Hannon said. “But it is bittersweet.”

In Bellingham, the family of murder victim Theresa Corley has been waiting 43 years for justice.

“Any cold case solved is still a victory for my family,” Theresa’s sister, Gerri Houde, told me.

Theresa Corley was 19 years old when she was murdered in December 1978.

I knew Theresa when we worked together at Star Market in Franklin.

Theresa’s naked body was found on the side of Route 495.

DNA evidence was recovered in Theresa’s case, but frustratingly, it is not enough to definitively point to her killer.

“We got a DNA match from 1978, but I’m told, at this point, there is nothing they can do with it,” Houde told me.

Theresa’s family is disappointed, but not giving up.

“I have faith in the detective that is assigned to her case right now. And I have faith they are being as upfront as they can,” Houde added.

Ten-year-old Holly Piirainen was abducted and murdered in Central Massachusetts in 1993.

It is a case that shocked Massachusetts.

Holly’s case is still unsolved.

Holly’s family, also paying close attention to the Virginia Hannon case in Pembroke.

In a statement the family writes:

“Our family is encouraged that this horrible crime has finally been solved using DNA.

Our hearts go out to Virginia’s family.

Our family is going on 28 years without answers of who abducted and murdered our sweet 10-year-old Holly.

We hold out hope that either a tipster comes forward or DNA testing finds the person responsible.”

For families of all unsolved murders, the passage of decades cannot erase time or the desire for justice.

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