A 20-year murder mystery reached its conclusion Friday in Douglas County Circuit Court when Rodger Allen Gran, 38, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the 1986 death of his mother.
"I need to say I'm sorry," a choked-up Gran told Judge Michael Lucci prior to sentencing. "If I could go back and change this, I would."
The Superior man was one month shy of his 18th birthday when Lynnea Gran was bludgeoned to death at Les' Grocery Store in Billings Park, where she worked. Forensic evidence indicated she had been struck between 15-30 times in the head with a blunt object, later found to be a hammer.
"The crime scene was probably as horrific and gruesome as any of the investigations I've come across," said District Attorney Dan Blank. "The harm Mr. Gran inflicted on his mother was very memorable."
The teen was originally considered a suspect, held for three days and released.
Chief Public Defender J. Patrick O'Neill remembered the scene of the crime vividly. He represented Gran in 1986 and was back beside him in court Friday.
"We have not a 38-year-old man before the court to be sentenced but rather a 17-year-old boy, because that was the case then," O'Neill told Lucci.
The cold case was reopened last year by the Superior Police Department, equipped with technological forensics advances. Gran pleaded guilty in July to the felony charge of second degree murder. The maximum penalty, which Blank sought, would have been 20 years in prison.
O'Neill requested one year in jail on top of the 440 days Gran has already served and a lengthy probation sentence. He said Gran had suffered enough by living with the guilt and the community's suspicion for 20 years.
His request was supported by Gran's sister, Lynnea Miller.
"His debt has already been paid in full," she said, adding that Gran was a victim as well. "Let us for once and for all put to rest the abuses and unresolved anger in the Gran family."
Gran's sister-in-law, Linda Gran, read a shorter statement from his older brother Richard.
"Rodger, I love you and always have," she said. "I forgave you 20 years ago. When you get out of jail, I will be here."
Lucci took mitigating circumstances into consideration. Those included Gran's age, the fact that he was drunk and high on what Blank said was LSD at the time, and a history of sexual abuse, which O'Neill said happened at the hands of Gran's mother. Lucci also weighed the severity of the crime, the charge itself and Gran's criminal record.
"In this case, unlike others, we have a record since the crime itself," Lucci said. The list included convictions for criminal trespass and burglary as well as a number of alcohol-related charges.
He said Gran has suffered a self-induced punishment in the past 20 years, but felt the prison time was warranted "in light of the conviction for second degree homicide" and the brutal nature of the crime.
"I think the judge gave a very serious sentence for a serious crime," Blank said.
The sentence is based on the 1986 statute. According to those rules, Gran would be eligible for parole after a quarter of the sentence -- approximately three years and nine months -- have been served. The maximum time he could serve before being paroled, O'Neill said, was 10 years.
He expressed disappointment with the sentence.
"What does it accomplish?" O'Neill asked. For the first time in 20 years, Gran could reach out for psychological counseling and help, he said, but was instead sent to prison.
The public defender said he did not anticipate an appeal.
For everyone involved, Friday's sentence gave closure to a 20-year-old puzzle.
"It's so dramatic and so tragic," Blank said. "So many years of sort of a mystery but not a mystery ... a hidden secret."