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Suspect in Cold Case Rape and Murder Tried to Mow 69-Year-Old Indiana Widow’s Lawn and Kiss Her Neck Before Strangling Her, Feds Say

Gerald Lynn Smith

Gerald Lynn Smith

Federal authorities have identified a 60-year-old Kentucky man as the suspect in the nearly three decades old cold case rape and murder of an Indiana widow.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, testing of male DNA from a sexual assault kit identified Madisonville resident Gerald Lynn Smith as the suspect in the 1994 rape and murder of Gloria Hansell, a 69-year-old widow who lived alone in Gary, Indiana and was in poor health.

Movement on the crucial DNA testing in the decades-long cold case began in 2020, which is when the feds said they asked Indiana State Police Lowell Regional Laboratory to “re-examine evidence” in the case.

The feds said investigators found Smith was not only in the city where the brutal killing occurred but also that he knew Hansell.

“Upon further re-investigation of this case, [the FBI’s Gang Response Investigative Team] GRIT investigators were able to place Smith in Gary shortly before Hansell’s murder and learned he knew Hansell,” the FBI said.

Smith, who was 32 at the time of the June 17, 1994 slaying, allegedly tried went to the woman’s home at least twice before the deadly attack. Authorities said that he tried to mow the victim’s lawn and attempted to kiss the victim on her neck before he allegedly killed her.

“A witness reported Smith, who was 32 years old at the time of the murder, had gone to Hansell’s house on at least two occasions in the weeks before her murder and said he had just moved back into the area from out of state. The witness stated on one occasion Smith asked Hansell if he could cut her grass for money, but she declined his offer,” the FBI said. “The witness stated on another occasion Hansell said Smith made an unwanted advance towards her inside her house that made her uncomfortable when he tried to kiss her neck.”

Hansell “relied on an in-home oxygen machine due to poor health,” the FBI said.

A probable cause affidavit obtained by Law&Crime reveals more.

Authorities said Hansell was strangled with an electrical cord from a nearby “squared shaped fan” in the living room.

The victim’s daughter Cary told investigators that Gerald Smith had actually dated her sister when they were teenage girls. She recalled that Smith got someone else pregnant, moved to California with his brother, but returned to Indiana several years later.

“Cary stated Gerald came back to Gary after approximately five (5) years and came over to her mother’s house,” the affidavit said. “Cary stated she was there when Gerald showed up looking for her sister. Cary stated while Gerald was there, he wanted to say hello to her mother.”

“Cary stated Gerald came back another time and asked her mother if he could cut her grass for some money,” documents added, alleging that Smith went on to make unwanted advances while Hansell was in her rocking chair.

“Cary stated she was unaware if Gerald was on drugs at the time he visited her mother. Cary described Gerald as a ‘little bit too smiley,'” the affidavit said. “Carey stated Gerald had long hair and described him as a little strange.”

Smith now faces rape and murder charges in Lake County, Indiana, state court records show. The second murder charge was issued because the killing allegedly occurred while “committing or attempting to commit […] rape.”

Although the FBI announced the major development in the cold case on Tuesday, Indiana court records reviewed by Law&Crime indicate that the case hit the docket on Sept. 28. A charging information and the probable cause affidavit were filed the same day. A Lake County magistrate judge found probable cause and issued a warrant for Smith’s arrest.

Court records show that the warrant was served on Monday, Oct. 17 — hence the FBI’s announcement the following day.

A court hearing in the case was scheduled to take place on Wednesday morning.

The FBI said that Smith’s arrest means its GRIT unit has now solved 11 cold cases over the last four years.

“GRIT Investigators are provided training in several disciplines and use that training to further their cases as well as pass on what they learn to FBI agents and TFO’s [Task Force Officers] across the country,” the FBI has said of the unit.

[Image via FBI]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.