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The slain husband of a former Miss America contestant was tragically gunned down in front of his wife and two-year-old on in a rough Alabama neighborhood while educating impoverished strangers about the powers of God, his friends and family say – just days after the couple celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary.
Thomas Hand Jr., 37, who considered himself a Born Again Christian, was sharing information about Christianity in the Montgomery area on Saturday with his wife and toddler when a man – mumbling – walked up to him and shot him, his friends told DailyMail.com.
His wife, former Miss Mississippi Christine Kozlowski Hand, 33, confirmed the account in a brief interview with Dailymail.com on Wednesday, saying: ‘What you said is true. It was a complete random act of violence.’
Hand Jr. – a fitness buff and ex-competitive bodybuilder – discovered God in 2018 and soon became infatuated with Christianity. He and his wife made it a Saturday tradition to visit low-income areas in Alabama and share religious teachings.
‘He tried to spread the word of God, and he’s shot,’ longtime friend Kevin Rayan told DailyMail.com.
A 17-year-old was arrested in the Montgomery shooting and faces a charge of capital murder in the death of Thomas Hand Jr., 37, on Saturday afternoon, according to police, who later named the suspect as Jerimiah Walker of Montgomery.
Walker is being held at the Montgomery County Detention Facility. Police did not immediately disclose the motive or details of the January 22 slaying, which happened about 4:30 p.m. on the 3100 block of Texas Street. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Thomas Hand Jr., 37, was murdered Saturday outside a Montgomery, Alabama home occupied by his two-year-old son. The couple is pictured with their son, Roman, in this undated photo
Hand Jr. was a competitive bodybuilder and the 2010 Mr. New Orleans, according to his company’s website
In 2016, Hand Jr. married Christine, who is from D’Iberville, Mississippi and won the state pageant in 2008. The couple has a two-year-old son Roman. She is pregnant with their second child, who is due in August.
The former beauty queen was previously married to Bradley Chisenhall, who proposed to her during a One Direction concert in 2014 in an event band front man Harry Styles helped orchestrate. They divorced within a year.
She also confirmed her husband’s death on Facebook, where she thanked friends for their love and support, and asked them to continue supporting their business, supplement company Hand Nutrition.
‘I’m just overwhelmed with all the questions and retelling of the details of what happened,’ she wrote. ‘I will at a later date release more information to explain everything to everyone.’
‘It’s a huge tragedy, not only to his wife, but we lost a very dear friend, as well,’ longtime friend Luke Lemus, 48, told DailyMail.com.’ Heaven definitely gained an angel. It’s selfish to think we wish we could have it back.’
In 2016, Hand Jr. married former Miss Mississippi Christine Kozlowski Hand
Christine Kozlowski Hand was named Miss Mississippi in 2008
She added: ‘Also for all of his loyal and cherished customers at Hand Nutrition the company will continue to serve you guys and we ask that you stick with us as this will be our only means of support for our son and baby to be. We need your support now more than ever.’
She said the company will relocate to her hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi.
Hand Jr. was a competitive bodybuilder and the 2010 Mr. New Orleans, according to his company’s website, where he wrote: ‘Like the old saying goes and it couldn’t be more true, “without your health, you have nothing.” Maintaining an active lifestyle and good well being is very important to me.’
He started his supplement company to ‘to be able to use my own products so that I am sure of what I am putting into my body,’ he wrote.
Hand Jr. had became passionate about studying the Bible and enlightening others about Christianity, and hoped to one day become a preacher, Lemus told DailyMail.com on Wednesday.
‘He started going to church, went and got saved,’ he said. ‘He studied the Bible day in and day out.’
He met Christine at a gym and the couple celebrated their sixth year wedding anniversary days before the shooting, Lemus continued.
‘It was love at first sight. They just hit it off. They started their life together from that point on. They were inseparable from the day they met.’
Lemus described Hand Jr. as a shirt-off-your-back type of guy would do anything for a friend – or stranger – in need.
‘An amazing person, awesome friend,’ he said. ‘He was always there to help you. No matter what you needed, he was there.’
Hand Jr. started his supplement company to ‘to be able to use my own products so that I am sure of what I am putting into my body,’ he wrote
Pictured: Hand Jr. (left) and longtime friend Luke Lemus (right) during their bodybuilding days in an undated photo
The couple married in 2016. Of her husband’s murder, the former beauty queen says ‘I’m just overwhelmed with all the questions and retelling of the details of what happened’
It’s not clear if Hand Jr’s pregnant wife was home at the time of his murder
The suspect in Hand Jr.’s murder is being held in the Montgomery County Detention Center. It was unknown if he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Christine Hand’s first engagement was an elaborate affair. Her boyfriend commissioned Styles to help orchestrate the engagement by stopping a Georgia concert to allow Chisenhall to pop the question.
The reason for their divorce was not immediately known.
The case remains under investigation, authorities said.
Anyone with any information about the shooting should contact CrimeStoppers at 334-215-STOP, Secret Witness at 334-625-4000, or Montgomery Police Department at 334-625-2831.
Source: Daily Mail