Two Maryland women with ties to suspects in a recent murder were allegedly killed by the accused, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday.
Danielle Tyler, 18, of Taneytown, and Heather Grogg, 33, of Westminster, have been missing since April 6, 2020 and were last seen in Carroll County, Maryland, according to a statement FBI Pittsburgh previously provided to Dateline.
April Lynn Braner, 37, of Burnside Drive, Falling Waters, West Virginia, was arraigned Monday in Berkeley County Circuit Court on felony charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy in the deaths of Danielle and Heather.
The complaint alleges that Braner knowingly allowed her home on Burnside Drive to be used as the site of their murders. She is also accused of providing one of the murder weapons to one of the suspects, a plastic garbage bag.
David Sanford Jr., 26, John Black III, 22, and Monroe Merrell, 22, all of Maryland, allegedly conspired to kill Danielle and Heather following the murder of Jonathan Riddle back in March. Riddle was found stabbed and set on fire in Rippon, West Virginia on March 18.
The events that led up to Riddle’s murder began on March 17 when he visited Heather in Westminster at the home of David Sanford and Emily Day, where she had been living and caring for the couple’s children.
John Black III and Monroe Merrell were also at the house, along with Danielle, who according to family members, had recently become involved with Merrell. According to the previous arrest report, Riddle was stabbed, bound and transported to Jefferson County, West Virginia where in the early morning hours of March 18, he was beaten, set on fire and left on the ground. All three men have been arrested and charged in his kidnapping and murder.
Sanford’s girlfriend, Emily Day, 27, was also arrested in connection with Riddle’s death and charged with being an accessory before and after the fact.
According to the criminal complaint, on April 6, Jeffrey Craig Smith, Jr., 22, of Westminster, Maryland, along with Sanford and Day, allegedly drove Danielle and Heather to Braner’s home in Falling Waters, West Virginia, telling them it would be a safe place to stay during the ongoing murder investigation.
The complaint goes on to state the women were brought to the home specifically to be killed. Across the street from Braner’s home is an old trailer known as the “party trailer,” according to the complaint. It’s alleged that Sanford used a plastic garbage bag given to him by Braner to asphyxiate Danielle in the trailer. When Braner realized Danielle was still alive, Sanford continued to suffocate her until she was dead.
At the same time, the complaint alleges Merrell, who had been staying on the property, lured Heather away from the trailer and she was allegedly shot twice by Smith. He has been arrested in Carroll County, Maryland and is currently being held in Maryland on the charge of being a fugitive from justice.
The criminal complaint does not include details about the remains of Danielle or Heather.
Braner and the four men are being held without bond. It is unclear if the men charged in Riddle’s killing will face additional charges.
Both women were featured in Dateline NBC’s “Missing in America” series in April. Heather’s sister, Brandie Hebb, told Dateline at that time she was worried her sister was in danger because she may have known something about Jonathan Riddle’s murder.
“I’m worried she witnessed something she shouldn't have seen and that’s why she’s in danger,” Brandie told Dateline. “It’s not like her to just disappear like this. To fall off the face of the earth. She always calls me to let me know she’s OK.”
She described Heather as being a friendly, lovable person who makes friends wherever she goes, and is young at heart.
Danielle’s grandmother, Sherry Tyler, told Dateline that Danielle had been excited about graduating high school and was taking video production classes, hoping to become a videographer.
“What they did to my baby is ripping my heart out,” Sherry told Dateline on Thursday after receiving the news. “How do I move forward without my girl’s bright happy smiling face? The pain is unbearable. So senseless.”