On Thursday, September 20, 1984, the bodies of Maram and Roland Hanel were found in their chalet in Jay, Vermont. Both had been shot multiple times. There were few clues, and the police seemed to hit a dead end early in the investigation. In the decades since the murder, there have been no arrests, no motive has been determined, and the case has received very little media attention.
Forty-nine-year-old Roland and 32-year-old Maram Hanel (née Haridi) were married and moved to the chalet on Gendron Road, which Roland had built, in 1981. Roland was from Germany, but had been splitting his time between Montreal, Quebec, and the Jay, Vermont, area since 1969. He sold his share of a plastics factory in Canada around the time the couple was married. Maram was born in Egypt, but had become a Canadian citizen and lived in Quebec before moving to Vermont.
A friend of the Hanels discovered the crime scene on the afternoon of Thursday, September 20, and investigators initially believed they had been killed several days earlier. Neighbors may have heard the fatal gunshots, but couldn’t be sure. The area was popular for hunting and bear season had recently started, so it wasn’t uncommon to hear shots throughout the day. The Hanels lived in the basement of their home and rented the upper floors, but there was no staying there at the time.
The last time the Hanels were confirmed to be alive was about one week before the murder. A gas station attendant thought she saw them purchasing diesel fuel on Wednesday the 19th, but police did not believe the sighting was credible given the condition of the bodies. The medical examiner confirmed that the Hanel had been dead for at least 24 hours before they were found. However, a second witness backed up the attendant’s story, stating that she saw the couple at the gas station on Wednesday evening, leaving investigators confused. The exact time of death was never determined.
After 14 hours of autopsies, Dr. Paul Morrow, Vermont’s deputy chief medical examiner at the time, determined that the Hanels had been shot between eight and 11 times each, with gunshots wounds found in multiple areas of their bodies. The type of gun could not be determined during the autopsies, though the coroner did rule out a shotgun. According to Morrow, it could have been a semi-automatic weapon or a handgun. There were no powder burns on the bodies, indicating the shooter was not standing very close to the couple.
From the beginning, the police struggled to find a motive for the killings. Neighbors and friends described the couple as friendly, warm and likable, and it seems they kept to themselves. Roland and a neighbor reportedly had a “long-stand boundary dispute,” but investigators did not think it led to the murder, and the neighbor was in Texas at the time. One Jay resident stated that some people in town were “irked” by Roland, who could be “assertive and opinionated.” The police didn’t rule anything out early in the investigation, but also did not point to any particular suspect or speculate about what led to the crime.
Five days before the Hanels were found, Lohman Mays committed an armed robbery at a bank in Londonderry, Vermont. Mays had escaped from prison in Tennessee earlier in the year. Investigators considered the possibility that Mays had killed the Hanels, though there was no clear evidence connecting him to the crime. Mays was caught in Wyoming in September 1985 and later pleaded guilty to the Londonderry bank robbery. He was never charged with any crimes connected to the Hanel homicide.
Two years after the murder, the FBI developed a psychological profile that suggested the Hanels knew their killer. According to the profile, the culprit had likely been to the Hanels’ chalet before and “targeted the couple specifically.” It also stated that he or she was in the same age group as Maram and Roland, may have been using drugs or alcohol at the time of the murder, and possibly attempted to “mislead police in their investigation.”
After the profile was released, there appears to have been very little media coverage of the murder, until a 2000 article published by the Caledonian Record, which shed some light on the leads police had followed. There had been speculation that the murder was tied to drug trafficking because Roland owned a boat in Florida, which he chartered for cruises. A connection to international terrorism was also considered. Maram had worked for the 1972 Munich Olympics, at which 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were taken hostage and killed by Palestinian terrorists. Nothing was ever found to connect the couple to criminal activity or terrorism, and it appears both of these leads were rampant speculation with no real evidence to support them. Police had hoped the ammunition used in the crime would lead to a suspect until they learned that it had been sold across the country and fit many different weapons.
Pete Johnson, who was the lead detective on the case in the 1980s, told the Caledonian Record that he did not believe the killer lived in the Jay area and that the Hanels were “fine, upstanding, honest people.” Roland’s daughter, Karen, speculated that a friend or ex-boyfriend of Maram’s might have been the killer, which would explain Maram opened the door for him. Karen did not name a particular person, and police have not publicly said if they have investigated the theory.
If you have any information about the murder of Maram and Roland Hanel, contact Vermont State Police Major Crime Unit at 802-244-8781. Tips can also be submitted anonymously at vsp.vermont.gov/tipsubmit, or by texting VTIPS to 274637 (CRIMES).
Sources and additional information: