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Another abuser takes a life he thinks he owns

The ZIP code may change, but the story remains the same.

Richard J. Hanson (right) appeared in Newton District Court after being arrested in a fatal attack on his wife.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

“I caught her cheating.”

Those are the first words Richard Hanson spoke — standing in his driveway, his wife Nancy’s blood all over him — as police officers arrived at the family’s Newton house on Saturday night, according to police reports.

As if that could explain — justify? — the horror he wrought inside the house on Brookline Street.

The ZIP code may change, but the story remains the same, whether the victim is Yajaira Suarez in Lynn, Ana Walshe in Cohasset, Margarita Morehead in Chelsea, or Nancy Hanson in Newton.

A woman trying to finally free herself from her partner. An alleged murderer who believes he owns his wife — that her life is his to take. A killing that leaves an immense crater of grief.

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The police reports from Newton make for gut-wrenching, and tragically predictable, reading.

According to a request for a restraining order filed by Nancy Hanson a few days before her death, her husband had long sought to control her every move, taking her phone and pocketbook, forbidding her to go out with a friend unless he came along, pursuing her and accusing her of trying to sneak out when she walked her dog, blocking her car in the driveway, cutting her off from the family’s finances so she was forced to use credit for basic necessities. And accusing her of having an affair.

“I have never cheated on him, conversed with another male in any kind of romantic way in 22 yrs of marriage,” she wrote. “I’m always home, with 3 kids.”

It’s heartbreaking to read those words now, to think that Nancy Hanson felt the need to defend herself against her husband’s accusations, even amid his abusive campaign to steal what was left of her autonomy.

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She was granted the order, but what use was it? Police couldn’t find Richard Hanson to serve him with it. And given what we know now, that piece of paper would hardly have made a difference.

Police reports from Saturday night paint a nightmare portrait. The Hansons’ sons, ages 17, 15, and 11, were in the house all along. As Richard Hanson allegedly bludgeoned his wife with a baseball bat, the boys were frantic, begging their father to stop. One son and a friend of Nancy Hanson’s each called police, certain Richard Hanson was killing her. By the time officers arrived, it was too late, the alleged murderer standing in the driveway, bloody and reeking of alcohol, police said.

“She’s in there,” one of the children, crying, told police as his mother lay in a pool of blood in one of her children’s rooms. Police reports say Hanson sat handcuffed in the back of a cruiser as more police arrived, sprinting into the house with medical bags, and as medics carried Nancy Hanson out on a stretcher, a police officer trying to do chest compressions as they raced to an ambulance.

Police took the boys into the backyard as emergency responders worked at the scarring scene. The boys were quiet, barefoot, in pajamas. One officer noted that, as he was standing with the children and the family dog, he could see blood spattered on a second-floor window.

Now what happens to those kids, who have lost their mother under unthinkable circumstances, witnessing something no child should ever see? Relatives and a GoFundMe campaign will help them, but how does anybody become whole after witnessing years of abuse, let alone the shocking brutality it led to?

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After he was booked, Richard Hanson said he “felt awful for his boys,” according to a police report. If that’s really true, and he’s mentally competent, he could save those boys the further misery of a trial by pleading guilty to their mother’s murder.

Lord knows that even then, his sons will have plenty to contend with. So will the community of good souls who care for them. A whole universe of people loved Nancy Hanson and her children. Her death, like that of every domestic violence victim, leaves vast seas of grief and rage.

And guilt, as those who knew her and other victims wonder how they missed the abuse, or whether they could have done more to stop it.

Richard Hanson could have ended it at any time, just by acknowledging what many men refuse to — that he was married to his wife, but he didn’t own her.


Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at yvonne.abraham@globe.com. Follow her @GlobeAbraham.