"It's very horrific. What he had done to her was one of those things that I think people can only imagine by watching a movie or television or actually seeing and reading about in some kind of a novel."
- Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel
It was the 14th of February 2007. A Wednesday. Valentine's Day. Thirty seven year old Stephen Grant reported his thirty four year old wife Tara Grant missing. Stephen told police that he last saw Tara at their home on the Friday, the 9th of February.
Tara and Stephen lived together with their two young children, six year old Lindsay and four year old Ian, in Washington Township, north of Detroit, in the United States. They lived a good life in a good neighborhood and had everything they needed. Lindsay and Ian went to private school and even though Stephen spent a lot of time at home as a stay at home father, they had a nineteen year old German nanny called Verena who helped out with the children.
Tara and Stephen met at the Michigan State University and were married for ten years. After she graduated, Tara got a job in the Washington Group International and over the twelve years she worked there, she was promoted several times and was a successful business executive. Her role involved travel and she had to spend time working away from home. At the time of her disappearance, she spent weekdays in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for work and every Friday she would fly home to spend the weekend in Detroit with her family. That Friday, the 9th of February, was no different and she arrived back in Detroit that day. But five days later, her husband told police that Tara was missing and he could not get in touch with her in Puerto Rico.
According to Stephen, when Tara got home on the Friday, they argued. He said that she informed him she would have to return to Puerto Rico on the Sunday instead of the Monday. Stephen said that he told her it would have to stop as she was away from home too much and they argued about her job. The last time Stephen saw Tara was when she walked out of the front door that night with her bags. Stephen called her a number of times but his calls went straight to voicemail. When Stephen couldn't reach her over the next few days, he called her boss in Puerto Rico but he had not seen her either. Stephen tried a few more times to reach her and gave her a few days to calm down after their argument but when he discovered nobody had heard from her, he reported her missing to police on the Wednesday, the 14th of February.
Police checked the airlines to see if Tara got a flight from the United States to Puerto Rico but there was no record of her being on any flight and her passport had not been used. They followed the money trail via her credit card and discovered that had not been used either. The last call Tara made was on the Friday, the 9th. So where did Tara go after she left the house that night?
Three weeks after Tara was reported missing, a plastic bag containing latex gloves, plastic bags, metal shavings and human blood was found in a wooded area not far from their home. Police said that the metal shavings were consistent with what would be found in a tool-and-die shop and Stephen's family owned a tool-and-die shop and he worked there occasionally. Due to that discovery, police were able to obtain a search warrant for the Grant's house.
Stephen was at the house when they arrived and let them in. He then took the dog out for a walk as police searched the house. They found a Tupperware container in the garage. When they opened it, they made a horrifying discovery. There was a woman's torso inside. The torso was from the neck to the top of the thighs and clothes were still on the torso.
Police discovered that Stephen did not plan to return to the house that night. He went on the run. Stephen used his friend's pickup truck to escape. Police traced calls made from his cell phone and located him a few days later in Wilderness State Park about 225 miles north, at the tip of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. Police followed footprints found in the snow and saw Stephen under a fallen tree. He was wearing a shirt, socks and pants. It was freezing out, 14-degree weather. Stephen was taken immediately to hospital to receive treatment for severe hypothermia.
It took two days for Stephen to recover and while he was in hospital, he agreed to speak to the police and he agreed to tell them everything that happened. His confession was very detailed, lengthy and the details were horrendous.
As a result of that confession, he was charged with first degree murder and mutilation of a corpse. Stephen pleaded not guilty to first degree murder but after a Jury was sworn in, he pleaded guilty to mutilation of a corpse.
At his Trial, the Court heard Stephen's confession. They heard that on the 9th of February 2007, Tara returned from Puerto Rico. According to Stephen, when Tara was unpacking her bags in the bedroom, and getting ready for bed, they argued. Stephen was upset by how busy Tara was and how much travel was involved with her job. She had told him she would have to return to Puerto Rico a day early, on the Sunday instead of on the Monday. They argued about other people too. Stephen claimed he was having an affair with the nanny Verena and was upset and annoyed that Tara was spending a lot of time with one of her colleagues.
The Court heard that Stephen said that as they argued, he grabbed her wrist and Tara slapped him across the face and he hit her back. His hit was so forceful that she fell back and he told police that:
"I know that 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 going to be f------ homeless. You're a piece of s---.'"
The two children were in bed at the time.
The Defense argued that Stephen should not be found guilty of first degree murder as there was no premeditation involved in Tara's death. And he admitted he killed her. They reminded the Jury that Stephen pled guilty to the mutilation of a corpse. His lawyer argued:
"First of all, simply said, Mr. Grant killed his wife. He did. That killing occurred on February 9, 2007. Your job is to determine what happened. What degree or lesser charge of a homicide occurred that day. What happened? Was it premeditated? We think the evidence will show that it is not a premeditated murder."
The Jury found Stephen guilty of second degree murder and he was sentenced to 50 to 80 years’ imprisonment.
Tara's two children, Lindsey and Ian, moved to Ohio to live with Tara's sister, Alicia Standerfer. Together, they work to raise awareness of domestic violence and take part every year in Tara’s Walk. Tara's Walk is an annual event to raise money and awareness for victims of domestic violence. Tara's sister Alicia spoke of her regret to the people attending one of the walks:
“I witnessed the controlling behavior but was naive and afraid to step up to say anything to that loved one. I assumed she could handle herself and that was the worst mistake of my life. Tara was murdered at the hands of her husband and we knew we had to use what happened to her to make something better of it.”
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"When someone just disappears for no reason, it's shocking, it's devastating. I just feel like my life stopped that day and I've just been in a tailspin ever since."
- Adam Vaughan, Janine's brother
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