This show, “Michigan and other Mayhem”, is a sort of factual, slightly comical, always earnest podcast about interesting stuff in Michigan and around the world. It is done by two sisters-in-law (Ali and Jenn) that like to talk about random interesting stories. Expect cults, mysteries, murder, fast-talking, and a couple of mental palate cleansers… and cuss words. Those happen on this show, a lot.
Episode 21: Tara Grant Murder, Burning Bed
- Pretend podcast music because Jenn likes it.
- Ali has a weird laugh. It is often loud.
Ali listens to a podcast where the two presenters keep count of who starts the podcast. Ali and Jenn just free flow. It would take another list for me to figure out who goes when, and I am listed out.
Tara Grant Murder
Valentine’s Day, 2007, Macomb County, Michigan, imagine Steven Grant, Tara’s husband, going to the police to report her missing. (Immediately, Ali says, oh, so he killed her.) Steve tells the police that she went missing after an argument.
Tara works in Puerto Rico every week and flies back home to Michigan on the weekends. Steve said they argued after she said she was leaving days early for work. Steve said Tara packed a small bag and left in a vehicle on February 9th.
Both Jenn and Ali think it is telling that his wife left on the 9th, had no contact with her family, which was unusual, but he didn’t report her missing until the 14th of February. Steven did contact her parents and boss during the time, but not the authorities. No one had heard from her.
The detectives talked to her family and to her family’s au pair which watched her children while she was out of the state. (Jenn needed to look up what an au pair was… a young nanny, usually from other countries, which works for room and board in the house.) Their au pair is 19-years-old.
The police found that it was usual for Tara to leave and not contact her children. They found that she had never moved her plane ticket to an earlier date or used the one she had. The police began to focus on the dark colored vehicle that he said she left in.
Steven Grant, once he retained a family attorney, stopped cooperating with the police. This makes the police suspicious. Steve is insisting she is alive but there is no activity with her money accounts or cards. The only activity happens to be the messages on her phone from her husband.
The police are looking at the car even harder. They called all taxi services and car rentals for the airport. No one had recorded picking up Tara. Jenn says they spent days looking. Ali thinks it was to check all of the boxes, to say they looked everywhere. Now the cops are suspicious of Steve.
Macomb County Police are holding press conferences to get support from local citizens. At the same time, Steve Grant is holding his own press conferences. He isn’t talking to the police, but he is trying to get his story out to the public. Steve’s press conferences assisted the police, as they were able to watch them and discern his demeanour.
They believed that he seemed generally distraught that his wife was missing but that he still had something to do with it. The police begin surveillance of him. Daily, Steve is going to the store and buying all three local papers to find what information police might have on the case.
A former girlfriend helps police by providing them with emails from Steven to her just prior to Tara’s disappearance. The emails were sexual in nature. Steve implies that his wife is having an affair. Now the police are asking if he was in a sexual relationship with the au pair.
What else looks suspicious? The au pair’s company called her back from the Grant home and she was now back in her native country.
The police started going to locations frequented by the Grant family. One location was Stoney Creek Park, which is near the Grant home. They were trying to find something so they could get a search warrant on the house.
(Side note: Ali had been to Stoney Creek Park in the 1990s to smoke pot.)
The case goes cold.
They caught a break when someone walking in a nearby park came across a plastic bag containing latex gloves, plastic, and blood. The bag was right by the Grant home, by Stoney Creek. Close enough for the police to get a warrant for the home.
On March 2nd, the police enter the Grant home and his place of business that he shares with his father. They search the home and inside a garbage bag, inside a bin in the garage, they find the dismembered torso of Tara Grant.
When the case first started and Steven was cooperating, the police had gone through his house. This time they noticed a new trash bin and looked inside.
Steven Grant was found up north at a local park, two days after they found her body. Steve admitted that they had been in a fight and he had pushed her into a wall. He claimed that she said she was divorcing him, and he would never see the kids again. He knocked her down and strangled her.
After she died, he wrapped a belt around her neck and drug her body to the car. He admitted he had a sexual relationship with the au pair. A day later, he cut her body up at the machine shop he shares with his dad. He then put her body parts in black bags and put the bags in the park by their home.
When he heard the police were searching the park, he worried he didn’t hide the torso well enough. He went back to retrieve it. He brought the torso back to the shop he co-owned and hid it in the ceiling above his office. Steve knew it couldn’t stay there, so he brought it back to the house with the intention of hiding it again in the park the next day. Fortunately, the cops came that night and found it.
Steven Grant was charged with murder and mutilation of a dead body. He didn’t believe he should be charged with first-degree murder as he says it was a crime of passion. The prosecutor disagreed because he could have stopped choking her at any time.
He was given 50 years in jail.
Ali and Jenn talk about how it takes three minutes to choke someone to death. That’s enough time to realize what you are doing.
At this point in the podcast, Jenn sees a bug that she promptly murders. Then she almost falls. You can hear her lose her balance.
The following real-life case was made into a non-fiction book called ‘The Burning Bed’ that was then adapted into a TV-movie in 1984. It starred Farrah Fawcett in the lead role. I watched it in 1984 and I remember the abuse scenes in it affected me. I was terrified for her, even though I knew the events had already passed.
Francine Hughes was born August 17, 1947, in Stockbridge, Michigan. Her mother was a homemaker and her father was a farmer. He was also an abusive alcoholic. Francine was only 16-years-old when she met boyfriend James ‘Mickey’ Hughes. Mickey was 18-years-old at the time.
Shortly after Francine left high school to become his wife, on November 4, 1963. Just a couple weeks after they married Francine came home wearing new clothes. Something about it triggered Mickey and he flew into a rage, tearing them off of her. She apologized for making a mistake.
They moved to Dansville, Michigan and went on to have four children together. Christy, Jimmy, Dana and Nicole were born into poverty and a house of anger, alcohol, and abuse. To give you an idea of the age range of the kids, Christy, the oldest is 10 years older than Nicole, the youngest.
Francine tried leaving Mickey several times. Like her father, Mickey was an alcoholic who would fly into a rage, terrorizing his family. She moved out of the home she shared with Mickey when their divorce was finalized in April 1971. Mickey was known to break into her house and refuse to leave, often battering her while he was there.
That summer, Mickey was involved in a serious car crash and severely injured, falling into a short-term coma. Francine, although reluctant, allowed Mickey to move back in with her after being released from the hospital.
After the accident, Mickey refused to look for a job. Mickey recovered from the accident and the abuse began again, with escalation. Mickey killed a kitten that belonged to one of his daughters. His drinking became worse as the beatings and humiliation of her became more savage. There were times Francine would call the police for help, and sometimes she would try to escape to her parent’s house. Francine feared that if she tried to leave Mickey again, or have him removed from the house, he would kill her.
During all this turmoil, Francine was working to obtain her GED. In 1976, she enrolled in a secretarial course, working to find independence.
March 9, 1977 things in the Hughes’ house came to a head. Francine came home from her classes to find an angry and drunk Mickey. Mickey screamed in anger, punched her, pulled her hair, and broke dishes as he raged at her. Their children hadn’t eaten all day, Mickey hadn’t fed them, so Francine quickly made them TV dinners. This triggered Mickey. He called her a slut and reminded Francine that he had forbidden her from making frozen dinners. He threw the food on the floor and bent her arm behind her back to force her to the ground to clean it up. As soon as she was done, he threw the food on the floor again. He also rubbed it into her hair, continuing with threats of more abuse as he did it.
Mickey forced Francine to burn her school books and threatened to take a sledgehammer to her car if she didn’t agree to quit school. Police came to the scene at one point during the altercation but refused to arrest Mickey as he did not beat her in front of them. They did, however, hear Mickey threaten her with additional violence before they left.
Before passing out in their bed, he demanded sex from her, raping her.
As he slept, she gathered up the three children she had at home, as Dana was visiting with a friend, and she had them get into their winter coats and bundled them into the car. Francine said she heard a little voice tell her to “Do it.” She headed back into the house and poured gasoline around her marriage bed, where Mickey was sleeping off his drunken stupor, then tossed a match on it. Turning around, she walked back out of the house and got into the car with her kids.
Francine: “I was calm as though I was doing an ordinary thing. I felt very light, clear-headed, free. This was the easiest thing I had ever done.”
Francine immediately drove to the Mason, Michigan police station and told them what she had done in the house. She was charged with first-degree murder. During the trial, she was found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. It was one of the first successful uses of the Battered Woman Syndrome defense used in court. This syndrome is said to often resemble PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
The TV-movie ‘The Burning Bed’ was a critical success and well received by the public. It brought domestic abuse to the spotlight. When the movie came out on TV in 1984, Mickey Hughes’ mother, Flossy Hughes, refused to watch it. She claimed that Francine wasn’t telling the story as it had truly happened. Even if the movie portrayed the events exactly, Flossy said she would not watch it. She believed it would only upset her.
Ali believes she was in denial about how horrible her son was when he was alive.
Small article and pictures of the burned home: http://99wfmk.com/burningbed41/