Last Dec. 15, a security officer in an apartment building on 8th and R Street NW noticed a group of children playing with a starnge looking object. It turned out to be a human hand.
The security officer turned the hand over to the D.C. Police Department, which has worked since then with the D.C. Medical Examiners's Officer and the FBI to positively identify to whom the hand belonged and determine that person's fate.
The hand was tentively identified the same day the security guard found it as belonging to Merlean Hanson, 44, of 5929 East Capitol St., according to police reports.
Hanson had been sitting as a member of the grand jury conducting fraud investigations in U.S. District Court here. Cases being presented to that grand jury included bribery allegations involving mayorable aide Joseph P. Yeldell and millionaire businessman Dominic F. Church of Scientology had conducted buggings and break-ins.
Hansons, who worked as a cleaning woman at the new Department of Labor building last sat on the grand jury Dec. 1. She was reported missing on Dec. 4. There is no indication of any connection between her disappearance and her presences on the grand jury.
After searching their files, D.C. police were unable to make positive identification from the fingerprints. On Dec. 28, they turned a set of fingerprint over the FBI in the hope that the FBI's more extensive files would yield an identify.
"There was a good deal of confusion because there was a problem in determining whether or not the hand belonged to a male or a female," special agent Orli Leeson of the FBI identification bureau said yesterday.
"The problem was that there was just the left hand," he continued. "Also, it was a large although it did have nail polish on it.
"Just to be safe, we checked through our male and our female files. On Jan, 4 we came up with an identification.
The victim was identified by the FBI as Merlean Richardson, 44, a Washington native. Yesterday Joseph Porter, the missing grand juror's brother, confirmed that his sister was married to a man that named Richardson in the 1950s and that Merlean Richardson and Merlean Hanson were thew same person. he said he had last seen her the first week in December.
The FbI file showed that Richardson had been fingerprint in 1957 when she was arrested on a =minor" charge. The file also showed that she was arrested again a year, later, again om minor charge. It was impossible late yesterday to determine the exact nature of the charges on the disposition.
According to D.C! police reports Hanson had recently undergo paychiatric treatment at D.C. General Hospital and now also a member of Alchoholics Anonymous. She was described as being 5 feet 6 and weighting 175 pounds.
According to police reports, Hanson changed her name after a common-law marriage to Leroy Hanson of 1712 17th St. Nw.
Hanson told police that he had last seen his wife on Nov. 29. On that date, he said, they had an argument and she left. he told police he had not seen her then.
Homocide Det. Jack Girault, one of several D.C. investigators who have worked on the case, said it had been difficult to make any progress in the investigation.
"Until we got a positive identification we really couldn't do anything," he said. "We really didn't know what we were dealing with. Once the identification was made it gave us a direction to go in."
D.C. police would not recomment yesterday on whether they had a specific suspect in mind but called the case, "active." A spokesman said, "We believe we are close to determining how the hand got to be where it was."
Merlean Hanson is official listed a "missing critical" bt the D.C.Police Department.
Porter said yesterday he "really didn't know" what had happened to his sister. He said he knew she had changed her name ot Hanson but didn't understand why. He said that he did not know whether she had received a divource from Richardson.