Tara Lynn Grant disappeared in Michigan. Her husband and stay-at-home dad, Stephen C. Grant, reported her missing 5 days later on Valentine’s Day. Her dismembered body was found scattered in Stoney Creek Metro Park.
Tara was a mother of two children. The 34-year-old businesswoman was a successful consultant who often traveled on business. She was highly focused on her career. Her husband, Stephen, was a stay-at-home father. She was the principal wage earner. He cared for the children and worked part-time at his father’s tool and die shop.
Tara was highly valued, and her boss was impressed with her work.
They resided in Macomb County, Michigan. They had hired their latest au pair, Verena Dierkes, a 19-year-old from Germany, after dismissing several women over the years.
Stephen thought she might be cheating on him and started spying on her. He was suspicious and believed she was having an affair with her boss. He began reading her emails. Meanwhile, Stephen was engaged in flirtatious behavior with a friend and had been exchanging email messages. The live-in au pair was also becoming enamored with him.
While having a family dinner, a former au pair was at the restaurant and advised her to be careful. Tara couldn’t tell if this was a threat due to the language barrier. When Tara asked if she should be fearful, she said yes but did not explain further. The au pair would later describe Stephen as a voyeur. Tara was strong and confident and couldn’t see herself in danger.
According to Stephen, this was not the first time his wife had left home, so he had not immediately reported her missing. He said that on the evening of her disappearance, he had overheard Tara talking with someone on the phone, saying, “I’ll meet you at the end of the driveway.” He said he saw her get into a dark-colored car that drove off and had not seen or heard from her since.
He said he tried to call her several times, but she didn’t return any of his calls. He also told police that she traveled a lot for work, and he thought she was having an affair with her boss. Her boss vehemently denied these allegations.
To keep the case alive, Stephen Grant made numerous media appearances, at times accusing authorities of harassment. The day after reporting Tara missing, Grant was stopped by police and arrested for driving with a suspended license.
Events Leading to Tara’s Disappearance
According to court documents, Stephen and Tara were involved in an argument at their home. He had accused her of spending too much time with her boss. She had returned that Friday from a business trip to Puerto Rico. Her boss had notified her that a business meeting had been rescheduled, and her flight had been changed to early Sunday morning. She told her boss this would be a problem because her husband expected her to spend the full weekend with the family. Nevertheless, she had to be at the meeting.
According to Stephen, he had talked with Tara on Friday morning and a couple of times throughout the day. When she got to Newark, she called and left a voicemail on his phone. She said she was waiting for a layover and would be late.
When Tara got home, they began talking. They had been back and forth about her travel schedule. She was in the middle of unpacking her bag. He was getting ready to go to bed. She went downstairs and returned upstairs and told him she had to leave on Sunday morning to meet with her boss. He told her, “No, you don’t need to go down there with him…because you spend too much time with him already and you don’t spend enough time with us…”
She replied, “I got to do what I have to do in my job, and it’s none of your business.” She started to turn around. Stephen grabbed her wrist, saying, “Stop…just stop it…you’re not going anywhere…we’re gonna finish this conversation.” Stephen said she then slapped him, and he struck back.
“She was in the process of basically changing in the…when the whole thing started…she was unpacking her stuff and putting it in the bathroom. It was so fast…I was in the bedroom already. I was undressed, and I was ready to go to bed, and it just kept getting worse and worse. And when she smacked me…I lost it.”
Stephen reportedly didn’t really remember what happened. He said, “I know she fell. I know she banged the back of her head on the floor, and then she said something like, ‘that’s it…I’m gonna take the kids…you’re gonna be homeless.’ Then, he choked her.
“She started to get back up when I put my hand on her neck because she kept saying that it was over…that she was gonna take the kids, and because I hit her, that was it. He said, “No, you hit me first, and she said it doesn’t matter. She said, “Cops aren’t going to think that…I’m calling the police.” Stephen then said, “I put my hands on her neck and choked her.” There wasn’t much fighting going on. “I think at one point she…I think at one point she realized that I wasn’t stopping…”
“She finally grabbed my hand at one point, but it was too late then, and I couldn’t stop then. I knew I was going to prison. I panicked.
The Detective asked, “Were you on top of her when you were choking her?”
Stephen replied, “I think I was kneeling…I don’t think I ever actually got on top of her.”
“Were you looking at her face?”
“No, I covered her face up.”
“What did you cover her face up with?”
“With a pair…with gray underwear or a gray t-shirt.”
Stephen: “And that was it. She stopped moving. I went downstairs, and I started crying, and I was worried, really worried. And I sent Verena a text message not to come home…Verena and I had been text messaging…we were text messaging back and forth, but we’d been going back and forth for a while, just sending text messages all the time to each other…I knew she couldn’t come home. I knew if Verena came home, she would see stuff. And I knew she sent me a text message back, but I knew I had to hide Tara, and I went back up, and she was dead.”
The couple’s argument escalated to the point where it became physical, and Stephen strangled Tara, causing her death. Their two children were at home but were asleep in bed.
Police Search for Tara
The case received a great deal of media attention. During the roughly 2-week period that Mrs. Grant was missing, Stephen went on the news multiple times, pleading for her to come home.
After unsuccessful attempts to locate Tara, the Sheriff decided to search a nearby park covered with snow on the ground. There was no sign of her.
A few days later, a woman walking her dog found a suspicious ziplock storage bag in Stoney Creek Metro Park. It contained human blood, metal shavings, and dog hair.
On March 2, police executed search warrants at Stephen’s home and workplace.
Stephen had scheduled a news conference at his home that same day, so there were many reporters on site when police arrived. The media was anxious to learn what was going on. The police couldn’t hold him at that time. While they began methodically searching, Stephen took off with his dog.
Arrest Warrant Issued for Stephen Grant
They immediately gained an open murder arrest warrant for Stephen Grant, who had already fled the scene.
Two days later, after tracking a cell phone call that Stephen made to his sister, police found the suspect 225 miles away in northern Michigan’s Wilderness State Park. After driving to the park, he spent the night in the freezing cold, shedding his outer clothing.
After apprehending Stephen, he was airlifted by helicopter to Northern Michigan Hospital for treatment of frostbite and hypothermia. He was guarded constantly by police.
After receiving medical attention, when Stephen was asked if he wanted to speak to the police, Stephen stated that he first wished to speak to his attorney, Mr. Griem. Stephen had retained Mr. Griem shortly after his wife’s disappearance.
Police Interview Stephen Grant
Mr. Griem, unaware that Stephen had been located and was in custody, terminated his representation of Stephen via a live news broadcast earlier that day. There was a relatively short period between Stephen’s capture at 6:30 a.m. and Mr. Griem’s public announcement of his resignation at approximately 9:00 a.m. on March 4.
Notably, at the time of Mr. Griem’s resignation, no one from the Sheriff’s Department had spoken to Stephen or attempted to question him. It was not until that afternoon, following his attorney’s resignation, that Stephen indicated he wished to speak to Mr. Griem, and many hours later, officers actually questioned him.
When he asked to speak to Mr. Griem, the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department advised Stephen that Mr. Griem had terminated their attorney-client relationship on television that morning. Stephen was then asked if he wanted to look for a local attorney. He declined the offer.
When advised that Mr. Griem had resigned, Stephen initiated contact with the officer in charge. Stephen attempted to speak to two different Macomb County Sheriff’s Deputies and a nurse about his circumstances. All terminated any discussion. The deputies advised Stephen that if he wanted to speak to anyone about the case, he should speak to the officer in charge. Stephen was given a telephone and spoke to the officer in charge.
Stephen asked the officer to come to the hospital so he could make a statement. The officer drove four hours to reach the hospital.
Detective Kozlowski arrived at Northern Michigan Hospital on the evening of March 4 and took a three-hour recorded statement from the petitioner. Kozlowski first read the petitioner his Miranda rights. The petitioner signed a document stating that he waived those rights and also orally waived them for the tape recorder. Kozlowski testified that Stephen Grant was not under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, nor was he subjected to any sort of coercion from the police.
During the conversation, Stephen confessed to killing his wife, Tara Grant, and described in detail how he cut up and disposed of her body.
After being released from the hospital, Grant was transported to Macomb County by a convoy of Macomb County Sheriff’s deputies.
Stephen’s Full Confession
On April 13, 2007, the Macomb County Prosecutor released Stephen Grant’s two-part confession publicly, a transcript of the interview with detectives and his own handwritten confession. Details included his arguing with his wife over his jealousy about her spending time with a co-worker. He also said he had been having an affair with Verena Dierkes, the family’s 19-year-old au pair from Germany. As the argument escalated, Grant strangled Tara in anger. He also described his efforts to dismember her body and hide it after he had notified the police of her disappearance.
Stephen Grant’s Police Interview Transcript. Northern Michigan Hospital—March 4, 2007, with Detectives Kozlowski and McLean with a Nurse present.
Excerpts from Stephen’s Handwritten Confession
“When she turned I grabbed her left wrist and she said something about ‘what are you gonna start hitting me?’ I let her wrist go and said I wouldn’t do anything like that.”
“I wanted to say the meanest thing I could think of. My statement resulted in Tara smacking me. I then pushed her making her fall back against the wall or wood floor.”
“Because she fell she started cussing at me telling me she would take the kids and house and I was going to jail and I would become the loser I always was. I then grabbed her neck to make her stop talking; instead I found myself squeezing and choking her with my right hand.”
“Once she was dead I started to panic. I had to get her out of the house and couldn’t carry her.”
“So I grabbed a belt and wrapped it around her neck to pull her downstairs. When I got to the truck by trying to pick her up with the belt, it broke causing her to fall back. When her head hit it sounded hollow.”
“On Sunday 11th, I took Tara’s Trooper to the shop and had decided to fit her into a large Rubbermaid container. I took the container and Tara’s body out of the truck and pulled back out of the shop.”
“Her body was stiff and in a weird position, so I ended up cutting off everything. I wrapped the pieces in plastic bags and put them, the torso, and all supplies back it the container. It all fit.”
“Monday morning I found a spot near Stoney Creek Nature Area power lines and hid the evidence. I came back and later distributed the body parts.”
“On Saturday 24th, I went out very early to recover the torso because I did not hide it as well. I took it to my shop and left it there until March 1 at night. I got it and planned on reburying it, but my house was searched on March 2nd.”
Grant dismembered her body at his father’s tool and die shop. He took the remains to nearby Stony Creek Metro Park in Shelby Township and disposed of body parts there. But after learning the police planned to search the park, Grant recovered the torso of his wife and hid these remains in black plastic garbage bags in their garage.
Dr. Daniel Spitz said that Tara died from asphyxiation due to manual strangulation.
Stephen did not have retained or appointed counsel at the time of his confession. His retained counsel had publicly and unequivocally terminated their attorney-client relationship.
Stephen was allowed to secure new counsel before making a statement and declined. There was no indication that the Sheriff’s Department’s failure to immediately advise Mr. Griem of Stephen’s capture was a deliberate attempt to interfere with the attorney-client relationship. There was no indication that the police anticipated or had knowledge of the impending resignation at the time Stephen was apprehended or that they were deliberately withholding information.
Mr. Griem also testified that he had made his decision to withdraw as Stephen’s counsel on Friday, March 2, 2007, but had been unable to discuss the decision with Stephen. Mr. Griem stated that his intention in making the public announcement was to let Stephen know he was no longer representing him. He testified that he knew at the time he made his public statement that the police were looking for Stephen and that Stephen would be taken into custody if found.
Ten days before trial, Stephen Grant’s attorney granted an interview to the local news. More than fifty news articles were published about the case. Because of the pre-trial publicity, the court took several precautionary measures to ensure jurors were not predisposed to assume the petitioner’s guilt. The prospective jurors were required to fill out a 23-page questionnaire and were questioned individually by the judge and attorneys for both parties. The process took seven days; 182 of 372 jurors were excused for cause. In the panel of jurors that was selected, fifteen of the sixteen jurors had at least some prior knowledge of the case. The petitioner moved for a change of venue before trial, and the judge denied the motion.
Before trial, the petitioner had pleaded guilty to mutilation of a dead body, Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.160, and received a sentence of six to ten years. The petitioner’s convictions and sentences were affirmed on direct appeal. People v. Grant, No. 284100, 2009 WL 3199493 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 6, 2009), lv. to appeal den., 485 Mich. 1128, 779 N.W.2d 803 (2010).
On March 30, 2010, Grant lost his final appeal in state court. The Michigan Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision that found Grant’s trial was not unduly prejudiced by pre-trial publicity in the widely covered case, nor was Grant improperly denied access to an attorney before confessing to police.
In terms of the psychological injury to the children, the court considered a letter submitted by the children’s therapist indicating that the children suffered significant emotional harm as a result of the crime. Letters and statements from Tara Grant’s sister and brother-in-law, who took care of the children after her disappearance, made it clear that the children may have witnessed part of the crime, were now afraid of their father, and were immensely traumatized by the murder.
Not only were the children forced to move out of state to start a new life surrounded by strangers, but the pervasive and unrelenting media attention this case garnered created a detailed, permanent record of the crime, ensuring that the children may at some point know every graphic and lurid detail of their mother’s murder and dismemberment. It is also a simple matter of common sense that children whose mother was brutally murdered and mutilated by their father, having effectively lost both parents, would be psychologically damaged in a way and to such an extent that is almost incomprehensible.
Concerning Stephen’s efforts to conceal the murder, the evidence established that Stephen methodically and precisely dismembered Tara Grant’s body and distributed the parts in a public park. Stephen then attempted to mislead police by filing a missing person’s report, making calls to the victim’s cell phone after her death, and appearing in the media tearfully begging for his wife’s return.
Finally, Stephen’s actions immediately before his capture resulted in the search efforts of multi-jurisdictional law enforcement departments, his hospitalization, and his medical treatment.
State of Michigan Court of Appeals: People of Michigan v. Stephen C. Grant
Stephen was charged with and convicted of the murder of his wife, Tara Grant.
Stephen appeals as of right his jury trial conviction of second-degree murder, MCL 750.317.1 He was sentenced to 50 to 80 years’ imprisonment. Because the trial court did not err in denying Stephen’s motions for change of venue and to suppress his custodial statements to police or in requiring Stephen to repay court-appointed counsel costs without conducting an ability-to-pay analysis, and because the trial court articulated substantial and compelling reasons for the extent of the upward departure of Stephen’s minimum sentence from the sentencing guidelines’ range, we affirm.
Books Related to the Case Available on Amazon
To their suburban Detroit neighbors, Stephen and Tara Grant were happy as could be. But their marriage, plagued by resentment and extramarital affairs, was held together only by their children. Until the night Stephen snapped, strangled, and dismembered his wife, then disposed of her body piece by piece in the very park his children played in.
Washington Township, Michigan: Valentine’s Day, 2007. Stephen Grant filed a missing person’s report on his beloved wife, Tara. The stay-at-home father of two was beside himself with despair. Why would Tara abandon him and their family? Was she involved with another man?
Stephen’s frantic, emotional search for Tara made national headlines, and the case was featured on Dateline, among other television shows and news outlets. But key elements in Stephen’s story still weren’t adding up: Why did he wait five days to go to police? What was the nature of his relationship with his children’s beautiful, nineteen-year-old babysitter? Why did Stephen have cuts on his hands and random bruises? Then, the police made a gruesome discovery.
Parts of Tara Grant’s body started turning up around the woods near the Grant’s home. The truth was finally coming to light…and, after a two-day manhunt, Stephen admitted to having killed Tara—first strangling her, then cutting her body into fourteen pieces before burying them. This is the shocking true story about a bitter, cheating husband whose crimes were revealed by the BLOOD IN THE SNOW.
Limb from Limb by Detroit News Reporter George Hunter, who covered the case from the beginning. It includes Interviews with the Killer.
He Used a Hand Saw. . .
On Valentine’s Day 2007, in a suburb of Detroit, stay-at-home dad Stephen Grant filed a missing person’s report with the local sheriff. Grant’s wife Tara had disappeared five days earlier. He’d been searching for her ever since–or so he claimed.
He Started with Her Hands. . .
Over the next two weeks, police questioned Grant. He lashed out, accusing them of harassment and pleading his innocence in television interviews. He swore that his wife, a successful businesswoman, had abandoned him and their children. Then the police made a gruesome discovery.
He Kept Her Torso in the Garage
After his arrest, Grant confessed to strangling his wife and cutting her body into fourteen pieces while the children slept. Detroit News reporter George Hunter interviewed Grant several times, learning shocking details of his relationship with Tara. This chilling account goes inside the twisted mind of a husband who snapped–and a marriage that ended in bloody carnage.
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How Stephen Grant Tried to Get Away with Killing His Wife and Dismembering Her Body
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