fb-pixelRichard Hanson: Newton man allegedly killed wife, Nancy Hanson, days after she obtained restraining order Skip to main content

Son pleaded with father to stop violently attacking his mother in their Newton home, prosecutor says

Richard J. Hanson, 64, appeared in Newton District Court. He was arrested by Newton police at the family home on Brookline Street Saturday night after a minor inside the house called 911 to report that the man was assaulting his wife, Nancy M. Hanson, who later died.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

NEWTON — Two days after his wife sought a restraining order against him, Richard J. Hanson bludgeoned her to death with their three sons in the house, one frantically pleading with him to leave his mother alone as he called 911, a prosecutor said in court Monday.

Hanson, 64, ignored his son and continued to beat Nancy M. Hanson in their Newton home, striking her “with one or more objects multiple times” Saturday night, officials said. Nancy Hanson, 54, was taken to Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital in Boston, where she died, officials said.

Hanson was ordered held without bail Monday as not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf to charges of first-degree murder, assault and battery on a family member, armed assault with intent to murder, and assault and battery causing serious bodily injury.

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His court-appointed attorney, Arthur L. Kelly, did not contest a request from the Middlesex district attorney’s office that Hanson be held without bail.

During the arraignment, Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Megan McGovern described a disturbing scene of husband and wife arguing upstairs while their sons were downstairs. When the quarrel exploded into violence, Nancy Hanson shouted to her children to call 911, McGovern said.

The oldest son, 17, told 911 that he believed “his father was hitting his mother with a baseball bat ... he indicated that his parents were upstairs and he and his younger brothers, also both juveniles, were down on the first floor,” McGovern said.

A friend Nancy Hanson was talking to at the time of the attack also called 911, McGovern said. The friend overheard the son begging his father to stop hurting his mother, she said.

When police arrived, Richard Hanson was outside the house with blood stains on his clothes and body, McGovern said. He allegedly told police he was angry with his wife because “she was cheating on me.”

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“I can’t believe I did that,” he said, according to police reports filed in court.

Through tears, one of the children directed police to the second floor, where Nancy Hanson was lying on the floor of one of her son’s bedrooms. She was breathing but bleeding heavily from injuries to her head. A bloodied baseball bat and a barbell, also bloodstained, were found nearby, according to officials.

Arriving officers provided emergency first aid — one wrapped her head with gauze and applied pressure to stop the bleeding — while repeatedly asked for EMTs to respond as quickly as possible.

“We need medics ASAP!” a police officer yelled into his radio, according to recordings of police dispatches recorded by Broadcastify.com.

Officers brought the three boys to the backyard with the family dog and tried to provide some comfort, the report said.

“The kids were in their pajamas, wearing no shoes, and very quiet,’’ one officer wrote.

The boy who called 911 said his parents were “always fighting and that this week had been increasingly getting worse,” McGovern said.

The state’s child protection agency, the Department of Children and Families, took custody of the three children, an agency spokeswoman said. The younger boys are 15 and 11, according to court records. Police were in contact with an uncle of the boys Saturday night, records show.

During booking, officers asked Hanson how he was feeling, and he replied, “depressed,” and said he “felt awful for his boys,” a police report said.

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On Thursday, Nancy Hanson had called the Newton police around 2:30 p.m. and said her husband had taken her purse, her laptop, and her car keys and refused to give them back. From the house, Richard Hanson told police he had taken the items but felt he was entitled to because he was paying the bills.

At 4:23 p.m., she obtained a restraining order that required her husband to leave the home, not come within 100 yards of her, and stay away from her workplace.

In seeking the stay-away order, Nancy Hanson wrote in an affidavit that “I have never cheated on him, conversed with another male in any kind of romantic way in 22 years of marriage. I’m always home with 3 kids.”

She wrote that Hanson would not give her access to the family finances, had spent money set aside for the boys, and had squandered $10,000 on shoes.

According to State Police, Newton officers tried to serve Richard Hanson with the restraining order at the family’s home at 7:26 p.m. Thursday, but Nancy Hanson told them he wasn’t there and she didn’t know where he was.

John F. Carmichael Jr., Newton’s police chief, said officers returned to the Brookline Street home two hours later, and a third time on Friday around noon. But both times, Richard Hanson was gone. On Friday, Nancy Hanson had no idea on his whereabouts, Carmichael said.

Police also tried Richard Hanson’s cellphone twice on Friday, but he didn’t return those calls, Carmichael said.

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“In these cases, the burden, once that [restraining order is] issued by the court, is placed on the Police Department,” Carmichael said. “And we make every effort to locate the defendant.”

Amarely Gutiérrez Oliver, executive director of REACH Beyond Domestic Violence Inc., said that a restraining order cannot fully protect a domestic assault survivor and can also lead to the abuser lashing out.

She said her organization helps those who file a restraining order develop a safety plan to protect themselves and their children. They could plan to stay with a friend, or have a temporary place to live, when they file, she said.

“When a survivor is filing a restraining order, we let them know that it’s a paper, the paper cannot protect you, the paper is only as good as police arriving to the scene as quickly as possible,” Gutiérrez Oliver said.

In 2021, Richard Hanson was arrested for violating a restraining order and resisting arrest, court records show. The case was resolved when he was placed on pretrial probation on the condition that he attend alcohol counseling and not attack Nancy Hanson, records show.

Nancy Hanson appeared in court and agreed with the resolution, records show.

A year earlier, Nancy Hanson was arrested on a domestic violence charge when she allegedly kicked her husband while the couple were arguing over how a Zumba course Nancy was teaching online was interrupting him while he worked in his home office, records show.

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Richard Hanson invoked his marital privilege and refused to testify against his wife, leading the case to be dismissed, records show.

Richard Hanson worked at E Ink Corp. in Billerica, where he started in June 2021, according to his LinkedIn profile.

In a brief statement Monday afternoon, the company said Hanson is no longer an employee.

“We extend deep sympathies to Nancy Hanson’s family at this difficult time. We are also providing support and counseling services to our employees,” the statement said.

Nancy Hanson was an exercise instructor at the West Suburban YMCA.

In a statement sent to members, the West Suburban YMCA said Hanson was “cherished and loved by all who knew her here.” The Y offered counseling on Monday and is expected to do so again Tuesday.

“We will miss her energy and charismatic personality more than words can express,” the YMCA said.

A former student who asked not to be identified said Nancy Hanson was a fitness buff who taught several classes.

“I found her so upbeat and positive,” said the student.

Jeannine Willis, a fitness instructor who worked with Nancy Hanson at Boston Sports Club, said Hanson was devoted to her students.

“It was never about her. She was a very selfless instructor,” Willis said.

Hanson spoke proudly of her children and worked hard as an instructor, Willis said, and was very devoted to her family.

Hanson didn’t talk about her husband, Willis said. Willis said she wishes now she had asked her friend more about her home life.

“I had no idea that anything was going on like this,” Willis said. “I’m devastated.”


John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him @JREbosglobe. Alex Koller can be reached at alex.koller@globe.com. Follow him @alexkoller_. John Hilliard can be reached at john.hilliard@globe.com.