Jury finds Groves guilty of murder

LOCK HAVEN — The word “guilty” rang out through the large courtroom 12 times as a jury announced the verdict in the Loyd Groves murder trial.

The courtroom was quiet as the jury walked into the room after announcing to the judge that they had reached a verdict just about 2:30 p.m. Monday.

Family members and friends of Kathy Heckel, who Groves was charged with killing 27 years ago, held hands and hugged each other as they waited to hear Groves’ fate.

Groves, 69, sat quietly between his attorneys, as he’s done throughout the trial, and showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

Tears and smiles erupted from Heckel’s family members as the guilty verdict was read.

Prosecutor Daniel Dye hurried to Kathy Heckel’s mother, Margaret Dolan, seated in the front row, where she’s been every day since the trial began on Nov. 19.

Margaret was smiling through her tears.

Dye smiled broadly and hugged her, as others in the courtroom stood in a line to congratulate the 86-year-old mother who’s been waiting for this day for almost 30 years.

Margaret and her late husband, Clarence, believed from the very start that Groves killed their daughter and hoped and prayed that the evidence would be found to prove that.

Unfortunately, Clarence didn’t live to see that day.

Other family members rejoicing with the verdict, included Kathy Heckel’s husband, John Heckel III, and their son and daughter, John Heckel IV and Alicia.

Prior to the verdict, Judge Kenneth Brown said the jury had sent him a note saying they were unable to reach a unanimous decision. But soon after another note came from the jury saying they had now reached a unanimous verdict.

Brown questioned the jury foreman, asking him if he and the other 11 jurors were now satisfied and were able to reach a unanimous verdict.

“If you have any doubt, we are happy to help you,” the judge said., to which the foreman said all were satisfied.

Groves was charged with both first- and third-degree murder. First-degree murder is any intentional murder that is willful and premeditated with malice.

Third-degree murder is sometimes called a crime of passion murder, and is any intentional killing that involves no prior intent to kill.

Before the jurors were excused, Judge Brown warned them that they might be approached by the media to talk about their decision. He told them that it’s up to them, but they do not have to talk to the media if they do not wish.

Groves was arrested on Jan. 20, 2015, after a state Investigative grand jury reported there was enough evidence to charge him with killing Heckel. He was brought back to Clinton County from his home in Beaver, and has remained in the Clinton County Correctional Facility at McElhattan since then.

Groves and Heckel worked at Hammermill Paper Co. at the time of her disappearance.

The prosecution said Heckel and Groves were having an affair and she wanted to break off the relationship while Groves did not. Senior Attorney General Daniel Dye said Groves killed Heckel and disposed of her body where she would never be found.

The defense brought forward a large number of inconsistencies in police reports and testimony of witnesses who said one thing back in 1991 and something else when they were questioned by the grand jury and during this trial. They also used a timeline detailing where Groves allegedly was during that day and said he had no time to do anything with Heckel.

“It was a well-tried case,” Brown told the attorneys before he stepped down from the bench.

“I am pleased with the verdict. I am pleased to get justice for Kathy after 27 years,” Dye said.

Defense attorney David I. Lindsay declined to comment.

Groves’ sentencing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Jan. 17. The judge has ordered a pre-sentence investigation by the county probation department.