'Forensic Files' puts focus on Gran murder
When he got a call from "Forensic Files" asking to film an episode on the murder of Lynnea Gran, Chad La Lor's first reaction was to dig deeper. "Being a cop I did a little back checking," said La Lor, captain of investigations for the Superior P...
When he got a call from "Forensic Files" asking to film an episode on the murder of Lynnea Gran, Chad La Lor's first reaction was to dig deeper.
"Being a cop I did a little back checking," said La Lor, captain of investigations for the Superior Police Department.
He found the call was legitimate. The Court TV program, which shows how experts piece together evidence to solve a crime, was interested in following the case from Gran's death in 1986 to the sentencing of her son, Rodger, for second-degree murder in 2006.
The story has national appeal, said Chip Selby, producer of the episode, entitled "All in the Family."
"I think the fact that it went unsolved for so long, for basically 20 years, before it was solved, that was the most interesting thing for us," Selby said.
The show won't air for another few months, but filming started Friday in Superior.
Today, a conference room at the joint law enforcement center was converted into a studio filled with lights and camera equipment. Gary Gravesen sat in the glare, giving the first pieces of the puzzle. Gravesen, a retired police detective, interviewed 17-year-old Rodger Gran twice after his mother was found bludgeoned to death at Les's Grocery Store.
"He was a suspect from the get-go," Gravesen said, remarking on teen's lack of emotion about the death of his mother.
The detective collected Gran's blood-stained clothing, but state technicians at the time did not have the know-how to identify that the stains were more than they appeared.
"He didn't just touch her blood," La Lor said. "He was there when the blows were delivered." But it would be another 19 years before that was revealed.
Gran was released without being charged, but the questions lingered. Especially when other possible suspects -- an Eau Claire man who was friends with Gran and possible violence by carnival workers in town for the fair -- were examined and discarded.
In 2004, the case was revisited when Superior Police Chief Floyd Peters assigned La Lor to reexamine the department's cold cases and determine if they could now be solved.
"If they hadn't decided to do that this would still be sitting in a box in storage at the Superior PD," Selby said.
And La Lor took the reins.
"He's the man," the producer said.
For the police captain, it was a chance to let actions speak louder than words.
"I think it's important for (the community) to know that just because a case may be old, some people may have forgotten about it but we haven't," La Lor said.
The case's completion hinged on technical advances in blood spatter expertise and DNA technology. But it took teamwork to tie the pieces together.
That started in 1986, Peters said, when detectives legally collected all the evidence needed to put the puzzle back together.
"That was very important and essential in this case," he said.
It continued when the case was reopened and La Lor, with the help of Department of Criminal Investigation Special Agent John Christophersen, began the process of re-examining evidence and reinterviewing those involved.
The trail wound down to the state crime lab in Madison and back to the Douglas County Courtroom.
"It was a team effort," Peters said. The "Forensic Files" program aims to show that. Interviews with all the principal players have been underway since Friday and will wrap up this week. They include interviews with local media and Rodger Gran's brother, Robert.
When asked what he thought of the sudden spotlight, La Lor said it's not as action-packed as one might think. He spent Friday perusing files over and over again as he was filmed from all different angles.
"It's good for the department," he said. "It shows that we're not just forgetting about these old cases but that we're still trying to bring closure no matter how many years after it happened."
"Certainly we never envisioned that there'd be national attention," he said of the case, but if it encourages another department to do the right thing it's worth working around a production schedule.
Selby said the case "is kind of a lesson that if a crime takes place now if it can't be solved right away you still hold onto that evidence. Who knows, 10-15-20 years later there may be new technology. You can revisit it and solve the case."
"Anytime justice is served it's a good conclusion," Gravesen said before heading in for his interview today.
Gran got his 15 years, La Lor said, and the family and community finally had closure.
As Peters put it, "It's never too late."