A man authorities tracked down in the snow of a wilderness area confessed to killing and dismembering his wife, and described the “horrific” details surrounding her death, a sheriff said Monday.
“He gave a very lengthy confession, laying out exactly what took place,” Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel said at a news conference.
Hackel said the couple’s young children were home at the time of the killing.
Stephen Grant, arrested Sunday in northern Michigan, was released Monday afternoon from a hospital where he was recovering from hypothermia. Handcuffed in a wheelchair and wearing a black-and-white-striped prisoner jumpsuit, he was taken from Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey for the drive to Macomb County Jail.
Tara Grant was last seen alive Feb. 9, and her husband reported her missing five days later. Her torso was finally discovered on Friday in the garage of the couple’s home in Washington Township, 30 miles north of Detroit, and other body parts turned up in a nearby park.
Coroner: Victim died of strangulation
A preliminary autopsy indicated the 34-year-old businesswoman likely died of strangulation before her body was dismembered, the county medical examiner’s office said Monday.
“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,” Hackel said.
Police said the couple had recently argued over Tara Grant’s frequent business trips abroad, and Hackel said there was a confrontation between the two at their home.
The Grants’ two children, a 6-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy, were staying with relatives. In a statement released through the hospital, Grant said he loved them and “looks forward to seeing them again as soon as possible.”
Tara Grant’s sister, Alicia Standerfer, had initially vouched for Stephen Grant before the torso was discovered. “While this outcome represents the worst possible scenario imaginable to anyone, we take comfort in the fact that Tara is now in a better place,” she said.
Hackel said Monday that Stephen Grant had told authorities he initially put the torso in the park but later retrieved it prior to an initial search of the park Feb. 24.
“We understand, based on his confessions, (the search) made him very nervous, and he went out back to that area prior to us searching and retrieved that particular body part,” Hackel said.
Suspect not dressed for weather
Stephen Grant, 37, was found early Sunday cowering under a fallen tree in a wooded area in Wilderness State Park, wearing only a shirt, socks and pants in 14-degree weather.
“I don’t think he probably could have made it much longer in those kind of conditions,” Emmet County Sheriff Pete Wallin told reporters. “I wouldn’t want to be out there unless I was dressed for it.”
His frostbite was relatively minor from a medical perspective, and his hypothermia had been mostly resolved, said Dr. John Bednar, the chief of staff at Northern Michigan Hospital.
“He’s been awake, alert, calm, cooperative,” the doctor said.
The torso was found when police went to the Grant home on Friday.
Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said the probable cause for a search warrant came when investigators found a plastic bag containing latex gloves, plastic bags, metal shavings and human blood in a wooded area not far from the Grant home.
Smith said the metal shavings were consistent with what would be found in a tool-and-die shop. Grant worked at a tool-and-die shop.
Brief escape attempt
After police arrived at his home, Grant, who had until then maintained his innocence in his wife’s disappearance, fled in a friend’s pickup truck. Tracing calls from his cell phone, officers went to Wilderness State Park about 225 miles north, at the tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
Officers found the pickup abandoned, then pounded on doors of the park’s few cabins and nearby homes to warn occupants.
“We didn’t know what we were up against,” Wallin said. “We knew he was suicidal, we knew he could be armed and dangerous.”
Grant had no weapons when he was found, the Emmet County sheriff said.
A helicopter crew followed Grant’s footprints in the snow and guided ground searchers.
It was unclear why Grant went to that area, although the family had visited northern Michigan frequently, Hackel said.