A Michigan man is facing murder charges in the death of his girlfriend after police say they found blood “all over the residence” where she had last been seen alive.
Derek Horton, 25, was arraigned Monday on an open murder charge after authorities say he killed 27-year-old Amber Griffin and then lied to police about the circumstances of her disappearance, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Battle Creek Police Detective Sgt. Joel Case told Oxygen.com that Horton, along with Griffin's mother Carman Griffin, first reported her missing on June 24.
He initially told investigators that Griffin disappeared two days earlier, on the evening of June 22.
“He basically said that she just, she walked off. He had told us that she was out in her car in the driveway listening to music and that she just ended up leaving,” Case said.
But investigators later learned that the couple had been at a party together later that night.
Witnesses reported seeing Horton and Griffin at the gathering, which Case described as a “small group of people that were drinking and hanging out” past midnight.
Police also discovered that a call from Griffin’s cell phone had been placed to 911 in the “early morning hours” of June 23.
“The dispatcher heard a male and female struggling and the GPS location for that phone call was in the area of that party,” Case said.
Police uncovered even more disturbing evidence when they went to the location of the party and found “blood all over the residence.”
Investigators believe the blood belonged to Griffin, but are working now to confirm it came from the 27-year-old.
Investigators also found blood in the trunk of the vehicle she and Horton had shared, Case said.
“All of this stuff was happening after the time that (Horton) said that he saw her last so we had reason to believe that there was an assault, that she was the victim of an assault. We had her blood, we had the 911 phone call,” Case said.
Another “odd” clue that led investigators to believe that Griffin had been the victim of foul play was that she had left her wallet, cell phone and insulin behind at the trailer where she lived.
Case said she had been insulin dependent, which made it unlikely she would have left the medical supplies behind.
Griffin also never showed up or called in to work on Tuesday, despite normally being a “very dependable” employee, Case said.
Police also learned that the couple had an “extensive history of violence” between them.
“It’s something that even the mother has told us about, you know, even down to suspecting from the get-go that something was wrong because of his abusive nature,” Case said. “We’ve also heard that he was so controlling that he wouldn’t even allow her to see her own children.”
Griffin’s mother, Carman, told local station WOOD she had received a final text message from her daughter around 10 p.m. on June 22.
“She’s like ‘Tell (my kids) I love them, and things are going to change.’ She’s like, ‘I love you mom,’” Carman said.
Carman said her daughter had been struggling to get out of the allegedly abusive relationship for years.
“I’ve seen her beat up a thousand times from the day he met her,” she said.
Case said the “icing on the cake” for police was the discovery of surveillance footage allegedly capturing Horton buying a shovel at a local hardware store on the afternoon of June 23.
“Originally he had been playing up the ‘Hey, help me find my girlfriend, I am worried about her,’ you know, the original story. Well, once we confronted him with the video of him purchasing a shovel he immediately lawyered up and wouldn’t talk to us anymore,” Case said.
Julice Haggerty, 27, has also been arrested and charged with accessory after the fact after police said he was captured on surveillance footage driving Horton to the hardware store.
Haggerty admitted to destroying some evidence on the morning of June 23 and he also “repeatedly lied” to investigators, Case said.
“He was helping Derek after the fact and he also destroyed evidence after the fact,” Case said.
Authorities have launched an extensive search for Griffin’s body, but have not yet recovered her remains.
“We’re tracking down every and any lead that we possibly can. Actually, we’ve still got detectives out right now that are looking for video and things of that nature,” Case told Oxygen.com Tuesday morning. “We’ve utilized numerous resources: drones, helicopters, search and rescue teams from different organizations, cadaver dogs, the Michigan State Police cadaver dogs. We’ve literally been almost working around the clock on this since she went missing and we still have not found her yet.”
Horton appeared in court Monday for his arraignment.
His defense attorney, Scott Coleman, has entered a not guilty plea to the homicide charge on his client’s behalf, according to the Detroit Free Press.
If convicted, Horton would face a mandatory sentence of life without parole
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