Former Kentucky man faces 20 years in connection with 1994 Gary cold case killing

A man faces 20 years in prison after recently signing a plea deal for rape in a 1994 Gary cold case killing.

Gerald L. Smith, now 62, previously of Madisonville, Kentucky, signed the plea agreement filed April 30 for Class A felony rape in the June 17, 1994 death of Gloria Hansell, 69. He is listed as homeless in court filings.

He was arrested in October 2022 after a DNA hit.

Smith must complete at least 50% of his sentence with good behavior. He must also register as a sex offender. Judge Natalie Bokota would have to review and accept the plea deal.

His sentencing is scheduled for May 28.

He was originally charged Sept. 28, 2022 with murder, murder while committing or attempting to commit rape, and rape.

Hansell was a widow who lived alone at 3966 Buchanan St. and used an in-home oxygen machine due to poor health, a release stated. On June 17, 1994, Hansell was raped and found strangled with an electrical cord, according to Post-Tribune archives.

A witness had told police that Smith, who was 32 when the incident occurred, had offered to cut her grass for money, but she declined, according to the release. Hansell had also told the witness that Smith had tried to kiss her neck inside her house, which was unwanted and made her uncomfortable, according to the release.

The break in the case happened in 2020, when the FBI’s Gang Response Investigative Team requested that Indiana State Police Lowell Regional Laboratory reexamine evidence collected in this case, the release states, and Smith was developed as a suspect from the analysis of male DNA found in Hansell’s sexual assault kit, which was collected at her autopsy.

Smith was one of two original suspects, according to court records. A witness said he dated one of Hansell’s daughters when they were teenagers. He “moved around a lot,” went to California, then returned to Gary about five years later, a few weeks before Hansell’s death.

Post-Tribune archives contributed.