The Justice Files: Elderly woman murdered to save grandchildren

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – It was the devil working inside Mary Hanson when she murdered her former daughter-in-law.

For the past decade the 82-year-old woman has been in prison but is now eligible for parole.

Tuesday she appeared before a hearing officer with the Utah board of pardons.  It’s the first time Hanson has spoken publicly about murdering Tetyana “Tanya” Nikitina in 2010.

“I had to get rid of her,” said Hanson during the hearing.  “That’s not me.  I don’t like doing that type of thing.  I don’t go around with a gun just shooting people.” 

But in 2010, Hanson did just that shooting Nikitina multiple times. Hanson said Nikitina divorced her son and was planning on moving to Nevada.  She had custody of the two children and Hanson worried she would never see them again.  For nine months, Hanson said she tried to reason with Nikitina but was brushed off. So she made a decision that would alter many lives.  Hanson said she took her handgun and went to where Nikitina was working.

“I was thinking don’t get stopped by police (because of the gun),” said Hanson.

Hanson took Trax because she didn’t want Nikitina to see her vehicle in the parking lot.  Once there, she waited for about forty-five minutes.  Then Nikitina came out of the building along with two co-workers.  Hanson watched from a nearby car wash.  She said when Nikitina got into her car she approached her. But then she tried turning around to leave.

“I saw a third leg growing on my right leg and it was stronger than my leg and I thought ‘what in the world,'” Hanson said. “It started walking with me and I just followed.”

Hanson’s mental health was never questioned following her arrest. She said she approached the car and fired once through the back window and went through the front passenger side window. She missed her target.

“She didn’t know what to do,” Hanson recalled.  “She was scared.  She hollered ‘oh my God.'”

Hanson said she continued firing and this time shot Nikitina in the head.  But Nikitina managed to move the car out of the parking stall before she crashed into another vehicle. 

“She had moaned or something and I thought she was already dead,” Hanson said.  “When she moaned I thought she is still alive I can’t let her suffer and so it must have been the last shot I used.”

In all, Hanson shot Nikitina five-times in the head. After it was over she sat down on the sidewalk, called her son, and then 911. She was arrested and eventually accepted a plea deal. Hansen was sentenced to fifteen-years-to-life in prison for murdering Nikitina.

“I was trying to protect my grandkids,” said a tearful Hanson. “That’s what I wanted most was to keep those little kids safe and be with their daddy.”

In the end Hanson lost everyone close to her. She said her son won’t answer her letters and her grandchildren have since moved to Florida to be raised by Nikitina’s family. After spending nearly ten-years in prison Hansen is eligible for parole. The 82-year old was asked why she would shoot Nikitina despite their differences.

“I believe I was being influenced by evil spirits, primarily by satan,” said Hanson.

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Marcos Ortiz
Emmy award winning journalist and producer, reporter of the Justice Files seen nightly on ABC4, begining his career in Blythe California with stops in Green River and Cheyenne Wyoming. He was hired to be KGGM’S political reporter in Santa Fe, New Mexico before arriving in Salt Lake City in 1992 as a general assignments reporter before moving into the crime beat.

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