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Jill julie hansen1

Jill and Julie Hansen

Real Names: Jillian Lee and Julie Ann Hansen
Nicknames: Jill (Jillian)
Location: Willow Creek, California
Date: November 14, 1986


Details: In 1971, Hans and Betty Hansen moved to Willow Creek, California, with their four children, Donald "Donny", Becky, and twins Jill and Julie. Donny and Becky were Betty's from a prior marriage. Hans operated a logging supply business in a warehouse next to their trailer. The Hansens remembered that Jill and Julie were always kind and friendly. Everything seemed perfect for the family until the night of November 14, 1986. At around 11pm, Jill and Julie, then sixteen, were getting ready for bed. In the living room was twenty-one-year-old Donny, who was visiting from Fortuna, seventy miles away.
At around 3am, Betty awoke to the smell of smoke. Hans opened the door to find the hallway engulfed in flames. He found a fire extinguisher and attempted to contain the blaze. He noticed that it seemed to be in a strip down the hallway, which seemed odd to him. He called for his children but received no response. As he exited the back door, he almost tripped over an empty gas can. When Betty came down the hallway, she saw Donny yelling at someone to "get out of here". She did not know who he was yelling at.
Betty ran to the shop where several fire extinguishers were stored. Donny and Hans soon came in and grabbed fire extinguishers as well. Hans also grabbed a ladder, which he used to break Jill and Julie's bedroom window. He sprayed a hose inside in an attempt to extinguish the fire. He called to Jill and Julie, but again received no response. Fire trucks arrived at the scene within fifteen minutes.
A few minutes later, a neighbor noticed someone in a field next to the trailer. It was Julie; she was barely alive, bleeding profusely from a gaping wound in her abdomen. Donny informed Hans about her, claiming that he had pulled her out of the trailer. Meanwhile, Betty ran to firefighters, begging to find Jill. Julie was rushed to the hospital; paramedics believed that she had suffered from a fire-related explosion. However, doctors were shocked to discover that she had actually been shot with a 12-gauge shotgun.
The next morning, Jill was found dead in the trailer. It was determined that she had been shot to death. Investigators recovered three shotgun shells and another five-gallon gas can in the ashes. They examined the warehouse for clues. Shoved behind some boxes was a 12-gauge shotgun. Ballistics test would later prove that it was the one used to shoot Jill and Julie.
Two nights later, while police were guarding the warehouse, Donny tried to break in. When questioned, he claimed that he had come to feed the family dog. However, it had been taken to the neighbors. It is believed that he had gone there to retrieve the shotgun. Investigators began to suspect that he was involved in the murders. They determined that he borrowed the gun from a friend a few days before the shooting. Unspent shells in his car matched those used in the attack; he had purchased them on the night before the fire. A credit card statement showed that he had purchased five gallons of gas at a gas station, just two days before the fire. Witnesses confirmed that the container that he filled at the gas station was identical to one of those found at the scene.
Approximately two weeks after the fire, Julie recovered enough to tell Hans and Betty what had happened. At first, her memories were sketchy; she recalled being shot, but did not see the shooter. She remembered climbing over Jill prior to being shot. She also remembered running from the trailer and lying down in the field. As they asked her for more details, she stated that she remembered seeing Donny's face in the flash of a gunshot before she was hit. However, her statement contradicted what she told her doctor. She claimed that she did not see anyone.
Two weeks after the fire, on December 2, Donny came voluntarily to the courthouse for further questioning. He denied any involvement, giving explanations for the evidence. He claimed that he panicked and hid the gun because he did not want to be tied to the murders. He was given two polygraph tests and failed both of them. Based on the large amount of circumstantial evidence, he was arrested that day and charged with arson and murder.
The situation would only get worse for Hans and Betty. On December 19, 1986, Julie died in a freak medical accident; an air bubble had entered her bloodstream through an IV tube and stopped her heart. As a result, her testimony was inadmissible in court because she could not be cross-examined by defense attorneys. Prosecutors now had a more difficult case to handle without the key witness.
In April 1988, Donny went on trial for Jill and Julie's murders. The DA asked for the death penalty. He was confident with this case: he had possession of the murder weapon, had brought it and the ammunition to the scene, had hid the weapon, and lied about it. However, the defense introduced two eyewitnesses, two neighbors, who had seen two unidentified men near the trailer while it was on fire. The defense suggested that these men had committed the murders.
Their theory was that at 3am, the men approached the trailer and somehow found Donny's gun and gas that he had bought. For unknown reasons, they spread the gas around the trailer, set it on fire, and shot Jill and Julie as they awoke. They claim that Donny awoke as the killers fled the scene. The prosecution felt that this scenario was ridiculous. They question why the killers would shoot Jill and Julie, but not Donny who apparently saw their faces.
According to the defense's theory, one of the assailants was still in the trailer when Hans, Betty, and Donny were in the warehouse. At that point, according to the defense, Jill was shot. The men then put the gun back in Donny's car and left in their own vehicle. The prosecutor points out that the theory also does not make sense because the killers did not bring any weapons of their own. They happened to use the gun, ammunition, and gas cans that were brought to the scene by Donny.
Somehow, the jury believed the scenario that the two men killed Jill and Julie and Donny was found not guilty. He moved from the area after his acquittal, legally changed his name due to the notoriety of this case and continues to maintain his innocence. However, he has changed his story again. His attorney claimed that he was awakened by the shotgun blast. Recently, he claimed that he never heard it.
Donny also recently changed his story regarding the shotgun: he claimed that he moved it because he was afraid that it would be stolen, even though the fire was still engulfing the trailer at the time. When asked about attempting to break into the warehouse, he claimed that he lied in order to cover up his previous lies to others.
Hans and Betty believe Donny is guilty of the murders and the attempted arson cover-up, as do the local law enforcement. They believe that he planned to kill everyone because of a life insurance policy. This case remains unsolved, due to the procedural defense of double jeopardy that forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same, or similar charges following a legitimate acquittal or conviction.
Suspects: Despite his acquittal, Donny remains the prime suspect in Jill and Julie's murders. It is possible that he had accomplices in the crime. Neighbors reported seeing two unidentified men near the trailer shortly before the fire started. A car was heard "screeching down the street" shortly after the shots were fired. A few hours later, two men with ashes on their clothing were seen walking toward the trailer. When questioned, they lied about where they had been when the fire occurred. It is not known what connection the men have to this case.
Extra Notes:

  • This case first aired on the November 10, 1993 episode.
  • It was also featured on the show Hard Copy.
  • In his interview, Donny had his face obscured, and voice altered to protect his identity.
  • Hans and Betty sued the hospital where Julie died, claiming that they were responsible for her death. However, a jury later determined that they were not negligent in her death.

Results: Unresolved. Hans and Betty have since cut ties with Donny, who is still considered the prime suspect in the murders. They now live in Eagle Point, Oregon. Officially, the murders remain unsolved, however, investigators consider this case closed as they believe Donny was the perpetrator.