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Murder charges announced in 1991 Clinton County ‘cold case’

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Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, Acting State Police Commissioner Marcus Brown and Federal Bureau of Investigation representatives today announced that murder charges have been filed against a Beaver County man accused of killing  Katherine “Kathy” Dolan Heckel of Lock Haven, Clinton County, in 1991.

Loyd Groves, 65, 239 Fourth St., Beaver, Beaver County, has been arrested and charged with one count of murder in the first degree and one count of murder in the third degree related to Heckel’s disappearance 24 years ago.

“For more than two decades, investigators have worked to bring to justice the man responsible for Kathy Heckel’s disappearance,” Attorney General Kane said. “This is a testament to the commitment and collaborative efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. We hope that the arrest of Loyd Groves brings some relief to her family, friends and colleagues. We will fiercely pursue these charges.”

The Office of Attorney General opened the current investigation in November 2013 following a referral from the Clinton County District Attorney’s office, which is the culmination of previous investigative efforts spanning almost 25 years.

Evidence was gathered by the Pennsylvania State Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation and presented by the Office of Attorney General to a statewide investigating Grand Jury, which recommended the charges being filed today.

State Police Acting Commissioner Marcus Brown commended Troopers Curtis Confer and Michael Hutson for their work on the case.

“The state police continued to work this homicide investigation for many years in an attempt to solve this murder – and the result of this case is a direct reflection on the Pennsylvania State Police, in that no victim shall be forgotten,” Brown said.  “With a fresh set of eyes and an open mind, Troopers Curtis Confer and Michael Hutson refocused their efforts on evidence, interview statements and the suspect Loyd Groves – ultimately bringing the case before a grand jury,” said Brown. “Because of the diligent work of these troopers, the victim’s family can now seek justice for the senseless killing of Katherine D. Heckel.”

“We are gratified an arrest has finally been made, and that the Dolan and Heckel families may be closer to some answers,” said Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko of the Philadelphia Division of the FBI. “No matter how cold the case, all victims deserve justice. The FBI’s commitment to an investigation doesn’t have an expiration date.”

The Grand Jury found that co-workers Heckel and Groves began a brief romantic relationship during the summer of 1991. When Heckel informed Groves she wished to end their relationship, Groves murdered her following a loud and riotous fight at their place of employment, former colleagues recalled decades later.

According to the Grand Jury, Groves disposed of Heckel’s body in a manner that caused it never to be found. That Groves disposed of or concealed Heckel’s body in such a way that law enforcement was never able to locate or identify it should not prevent Groves’ prosecution for the murder there is probable cause to believe he committed.

The direct and circumstantial evidence supporting the Grand Jury’s recommendation of murder charges for Groves includes:

  • Former colleagues and friends were concerned that Groves harmed Heckel because she never returned from lunch on July 15, 1991, and they personally witnessed Groves’ volatile behavior toward her in the hours before she disappeared.
  • In the hours and days following Heckel’s disappearance, he exhibited anxiety and paranoia, interrogating coworkers about whether the police were asking about him.
  • Groves never expressed dismay or concern that Heckel was missing, but rather immediately set about recruiting friends and co-workers to help him manufacture an alibi.
  • Groves could not account for his whereabouts during the period when Heckel disappeared or explain his sudden and total memory loss.
  • Soon after Heckel’s disappearance, a friend of Groves’ son noticed what appeared to be a blood stain on the van upholstery. Groves explained to his children that the stain was ‘deer blood’ but told his wife it was ‘oil or tar.’ Groves then cut out the stained portions of the carpeting in the back of his van.
  • DNA evidence establishes to a mathematical certainty that the blood found around the removed carpet sections belonged to Kathy Heckel.
  • After Heckel’s vehicle was secured as evidence by authorities, a scent-tracking dog was given Groves’ scent and, in an empty parking lot, followed it to the exact spot Heckel’s vehicle was found.
  • Groves wrote a note to his wife that contained instructions for her upon his arrest.

Heckel was described by witnesses as a loving, devoted mother. The Grand Jury found no reason to believe she had any plans other than to go to work during the day, and cook dinner for her children the evening of July 15, 1991.

The case will be prosecuted in Clinton County by Deputy Attorney General Clarke Madden of the Office of Attorney General’s Criminal Prosecutions Section.

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