BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — Crews looking in Battle Creek for a woman murdered nearly two years ago have unearthed what police say are “likely” her bones.
The state of decomposition, police said, means testing is needed to confirm the remains are those of Amber Griffin — but given that the man accused of killing her showed them where to dig, it’s unlikely they belong to anyone else.
The search started Wednesday after Griffin’s boyfriend Derek Horton halted his murder trial by promising to bring investigators to where he buried her body. Horton was granted a tentative plea agreement: He could plead no contest to second-degree murder and another murder count would be dismissed, but that deal would only stand if Griffin was found.
Horton directed officers to a property on Waubascon Road off Limit Street. Battle Creek Police Department Lt. Joel Case said Horton pointed out three areas to search.
“There were a few things that had changed since the last time that he saw it,” Case noted.
Crews looked for several hours Wednesday but didn’t find anything.
On Thursday, after peeling away about 3 feet of earth at the third spot, crews found human remains.
“It was a pretty significant depth,” Case said Thursday afternoon, adding that crews were still working on the site. “The surface of the ground, you couldn’t tell anything apart. You would think that you could go up and identify an area relatively easy, but that was not the case at all. Mainly with the leaves and stuff that were on top of the ground, you couldn’t just look at a spot and determine that was an area that could be searched.
“We were trying to be delicate,” he continued. “You’re using a piece of heavy equipment to bring back layers at a time; you don’t want to damage anything. We want to respect the body when we recover her, so that was a very slow process that we were doing.”
He said the soil looked different at the third dig site than the first two, which made crews optimistic they were in the right spot.
“Then, eventually, we were able to actually see the bones,” he said.
Case said Griffin’s mother was emotional but relieved her daughter’s remains had been found.
“This is one of the two end results that we were looking for,” Case said. “One was the successful prosecution, with (Horton) going to prison. And second was returning the human remains to the family so that they can have a proper burial for their mother.”
Griffin, 27, a mother of two, is believed to have been murdered on June 23, 2020. Horton, who lived with Griffin in Bedford Township just outside Battle Creek, and her mother reported her missing the next day.
“(Finding Griffin) is something that we wanted to accomplish from the very beginning,” Case said. “The day that she was reported missing, almost the entire investigative bureau from the Battle Creek police was activated to find her.”
Horton initially told police that Griffin had simply walked away from their home, but it soon became apparent that was not what happened.
There are two properties connected with the case. The first is a house on Oneita Street. Police say a 911 call from Griffin’s phone was made there early on June 23. They also found signs of a struggle and blood on all three floors.
The second property is the one on Waubascon, about half a mile from the house on Oneita. There, police previously found a pair of bloody women’s pants. They also found a key piece of evidence: a receipt from a hardware store for an $8 shovel. Surveillance video from the hardware store, investigators say, shows Horton buying the shovel on June 23.
Horton was arrested June 26.
Police previously searched the property on Waubascon for Griffin’s body with no success.