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Murder Suspect Leads Cops To Body Of Girlfriend He’s Accused Of Killing
On the second day of his trial for killing his girlfriend, Amber Griffin, Derek Horton offered to lead police to her remains in exchange for a plea deal. Police then found what is believed to be her body.
A Michigan man on trial for killing his missing girlfriend in 2020 showed police where he'd buried her remains this week in exchange for a plea deal, according to authorities.
Derek Horton, 27, was arrested in June 2020, six days after he reported his girlfriend, Amber Griffin, 27, missing. Horton and Griffin's mother, Carman Griffin, reported her missing on June 24, 2020 after Horton said that Griffin had left their camper after a fight on the evening on June 22.
Police later determined that the pair had been at a small house party on the north side of Battle Creek, Michigan past midnight on the day Horton said she'd left.
A 911 call from Griffin's phone around 2:00 a.m. on June 23 placed it in the area of the party — in a house at 266 Oneita Street — and contained a nearly inaudible plea for help before it was disconnected, according to Kalamazoo NBC affiliate WWMT. Prosecutors said the call came from the basement of the home where they believe Horton killed Griffin, his girlfriend of five years.
Police told Grand Rapids NBC affiliate WOOD that blood was found on all three floors of the home when police searched it; Carman Griffin told the station she saw it as well.
“I looked and they had a beer box in the window and there was blood and glass busted and blood everywhere," she told the station in July 2020.
The house burned down on Jan. 3, 2021, killing Harmon G. Roberson, 67, according to the Battle Creek Fire Department and the Battle Creek Enquirer. Homeowner Charles S. Walker III, 67, was able to escape the blaze, which he contended Roberson began by smoking on a sofa. Police said they believed the fire was unrelated to Griffin's murder.
Walker is the grandfather of Julice Haggerty, 29, who also faces charges in the case. Haggerty was arrested in 2020 and charged with tampering with evidence and lying to police; he posted a $20,000 bond and is due in court for another pre-trial hearing in April, according to court records reviewed by Oxygen.com.
Haggerty allegedly admitted to investigators that he helped Horton clean up after the murder and was allegedly capture on surveillance footage driving Horton to a hardware store on June 23. Horton purchased a shovel that police believe he used to bury Griffin.
According to police, Haggerty told them in interviews that, after the house party, he "woke the next morning to find blood on him, his shorts and sheets and the walls and furniture of the house." He allegedly acknowledged assuming that it was Griffin's blood and that he cleaned it up and disposed of the sheets in a dumpster blocks away.
Police found a receipt for the shovel near a pair of bloody women's pants shortly after the murder near a house on Waubascon Street, half a mile from where the party was held during their extensive initial search for Griffin's body, WOOD reported. They declared Griffin presumed dead on Feb. 9, 2021.
Horton's trial in her murder began on Tuesday, according to WWMT, and neighbors testified to Griffin's apparent feelings of terror toward her boyfriend. Police testified that the blood found at the Oneita party house was Griffin's, and that they also found her blood on the outside of Horton's car.
After she went missing, they testified, they found Griffin's insulin kit — she was insulin dependent, her mother said — along with her wallet, phone and shoes inside the couple's camper.
But after the first day's testimony, Horton struck a conditional plea deal with prosecutors: he would be allowed to plead no contest to second-degree murder charges — with minimum sentence of 15 years — in exchange for leading police to Griffin's body, according to WMMT.
He took police to a site near the Oneita Street house and pointed out several locations, police said in a Thursday press conference.
"There were a few things that had changed since the last time that he saw it so he had identified a couple of areas," Battle Creek Police Lt. Joel Case said on Thursday. "I can report that the third area that we searched today, we have found human remains and we do believe those are likely to be Amber Griffin’s body."
"Due to the fact that she has decomposed at this point and it’s just bones, we do have to do some further testing to confirm that it is her," he added.
Case said that police had found the top part of her body buried approximately three feet deep and that investigators were continuing to painstakingly unearth the scene.
Case said that he and the prosecutor had broken the news to Griffin's mother together.
“I talked to Carman, myself and Prosecutor [David] Gilbert went there and broke the news to her," he said. "She’s happy that she was found but she’s still very emotional. It’s been a very long ordeal for her.”
Case added that they believed that Horton had complied with his part of the conditional plea deal but that they awaited word from the medical examiner before it would be completed.
Horton's plea was entered on Wednesday, according to court records reviewed by Oxygen.com and the next hearing in his case is scheduled for April 18.