Editor’s note: This story is from the Sun Journal archive. We are rerunning it on the anniversary of the disappearance of Judith Hand. Her murder has not been solved.

For Farmington Chief Richard Caton III and Franklin County Sheriff Dennis Pike, the unsolved murder of a 15-year-old Farmington girl killed in 1971 nags at them.

Judith Hand Photo courtesy of Maine State Police

Judith Hand disappeared after school while walking to a babysitting job Sept. 10, 1971. She was last seen leaving her home at 2:50 p.m. and was reported missing later that evening. They found her badly decomposed body 13 days later in a sawdust pile.

She lived with her parents and siblings on Middle Street in Farmington and attended Mt. Blue Junior High.

Caton read the file as a detective and followed up on tips. The case passed to a state police detective he still talks to.

Pike calls Hand’s case the biggest disappointment of his career.

“I had great hopes we would have (the slayings of Hand and of Butch Weed, who was killed in his Wilton home Dec. 23, 2003) resolved before my career was over or before I moved on. I still have hopes, but certainly the Hand case is so ancient now that unless someone probably confessed on their death bed – if they’re even still alive – tragically (it) will go unresolved,” Pike said in 2007.

There are certain details he would prefer not to discuss, saying they might upset surviving members of the Hand family, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t remember them.

“I was in Augusta, doing a polygraph on another suspect,” Pike said in 2014. “While we were there, the state police officer who was doing that got a note and handed the note to me. It said they had discovered the remains of Miss Hand. Although the other case was important, I was really anxious to get back to Farmington to get on that.”

Police officers interviewed hundreds of people. Two people confessed to the murder, but their confessions were ruled out as falsified.

The Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit asks that any one with information about Hand’s disappearance to contact the unit at 1 Game Farm Road, Gray, Me 04039 or 1-800-228-0857. An online tip form also is available.

Reporters Kathryn Skelton of the Sun Journal and Matt Hongoltz-Hetling of the Morning Sentinel contributed to this report.


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