‘We know what you did to Holly Grim,’ police said in note as investigation pointed to Michael Horvath as murder suspect Pennsylvania Senate GOP primary: David McCormick, Mehmet Oz remain locked in razor-close race; vote counting could take all week Distri

63 21/05/2022

A prosecutor described cellphone evidence, an alibi that didn’t make sense and a bloodstain on the victim’s back door that led investigators to close in on Michael Horvath as the suspect in Holly Grim’s 2013 disappearance in the opening of Horvath’s kidnapping and murder trial.

In the weeks after the Lower Macungie Township mother disappeared from her trailer, police interviewed co-workers of Grim’s who didn’t show up or were late to work at Allen Organ Co. the dark and misty morning Grim’s mother discovered her trailer in disarray and was unable to reach her by cellphone, Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Michael T. Rakaczewski said Wednesday.

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Horvath admitted he knew Grim and had been late for work because he had a flat tire that morning. But investigators doubted his story that he had turned back to his home to fix the tire after getting almost all the way to work and then went to work nearly two hours late because he wanted to save his days off for hunting, Rackzewski said.

Cellphone records showed that he had made a call from Lower Macungie more than an hour before he was due at work. And dried blood on the back door of Grim’s trailer, where Horvath had delivered a washer and dryer a year earlier, matched a DNA sample Horvath gave during a subsequent interview.

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But more than two years after Grim’s disappearance there was no proof that she was dead.

In March 2016, troopers placed a note on the windshield of Horvath’s truck that read, “We know what you did to Holly Grim. Do the right thing.” They hoped it would spook Horvath into visiting the location of Grim’s remains as investigators tailed him, Rakaczewski said told President Judge Margherita Patti-Worthington.

The ruse didn’t pay off as investigators hoped, but after a fourth interview with police in September 2016 when Horvath admitted he misled them about his excuse for missing work, was unable to explain the early morning cellphone call near Grim’s trailer and agreed that his blood on Grim’s door looked fresh, police obtained a warrant to search Horvath’s property in Ross Township, Rakaczewski said.

A state game warden assisting in the search found a human bone in a pile of firepit ashes at the rear of Horvath’s property. As the search continued a few days later, investigators found more bones including teeth, vertebrae and skull fragments that matched Grim’s DNA underneath boulders and a child’s bedframe, he said.

A forensic pathologist said the bone fragments indicated she had suffered gunshot wounds from a small-caliber weapon, Rakaczewski said.

Horvath was charged in October 2016 with kidnapping, criminal homicide, evidence tampering and abuse of a corpse.

“The evidence is going to show, your honor, beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had the motive to kidnap and murder Holly Grim, that he had the opportunity to kidnap and murder Holly Grim and he had various different means to kidnap and murder Holly Grim,” Rakaczewski said.

Patti-Worthington is presiding over a non-jury trial for Horvath in Monroe County Court. Horvath agreed to give up his right to a jury trial in exchange for prosecutors dropping the death penalty, which Horvath’s attorney, Janet Jackson, said reduces the complexity and length of the case.

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Patti-Worthington will decide whether Horvath is guilty. The maximum penalty Horvath faces is life in prison plus additional sentences for the related offenses.

Horvath’s trial, originally scheduled for 2019, was delayed several times by pretrial issues, including a highly unusual request by prosecutors to disqualify the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office, asserting that the office was ill-prepared to defend Horvath in a complex death penalty case. When the pandemic closed courts and created a backlog of cases, it was further delayed until this month. The trial is expected to last two weeks.

Prosecution witnesses Wednesday included Grim’s former neighbor Tammy Seibert, who testified she saw Grim getting out of her car in her driveway after both had dropped their teenage sons at the school bus stop. Seibert said she heard a thump a few minutes later that sounded like something had been dropped inside Grim’s trailer, which faced the rear of Seibert’s home.

Dwayne Mory, who dated Grim, said he met Grim at her home after she returned from her weekly league bowling night and stayed over. He left for work around 5:30 the next morning, kissing her goodbye. Nothing was unusual until Grim’s mother, Jeanette Grim, called him at work and said she couldn’t find or contact her daughter.

Mory told Jeanette Grim where to find the key to his house so she could look for Holly Grim there. When her mother reported he wasn’t there, Mory returned to his girlfriend’s house where he and Jeanette found Holly Grim’s living room in disarray, with the coffee table out of place and an ashtray and coffee mug spilled on the carpet.

On cross-examination, defense attorney David Churundolo asked Mory if he told state police about anyone else who had animosity toward Grim. Mory said one co-worker with whom she had had a relationship harassed her and sent her unwanted items and another was upset that Grim had intervened in his relationship with her friend.

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After Grim’s partial remains were discovered at Horvath’s property, investigators found additional evidence in a soundproofed shed and trailer and inside Horvath’s home that included videotapes and DVDs on serial killers and murder, handcuffs and leg shackles, a stun gun, lock picking manuals and tools and homemade guns capable of firing shotgun shells and .22 caliber ammunition.

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They also found digital photographs and handwritten notes in planners that suggested Horvath had stalked Grim.

“It becomes clear to investigators that the defendant has been stalking Holly Grim for quite some time,”Rakaczewski said in his opening statement.

On Horvath’s electronic devices, investigators found photos of the outside of Grim’s home taken in 2009, of Grim at work in 2011 and of the inside of her home four months before she disappeared.

Notes in a day planner suggest Horvath had watched Grim’s home for more than a year, including her daily routines and the make, model and registration of her boyfriend’s vehicle.

Rakaczewski noted that Grim’s disappearance happened in about half an hour between dropping her son off at the school bus stop, where a neighbor saw her and her mother discovering her missing from her trailer, where spilled coffee and an ashtray led her to immediately suspect foul play.

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“The defendant knew Holly Grim was a creature of habit and he knew what those habits were, what time she got up, what time the lights came on, what time she left for work,” he said.

Morning Call reporter Peter Hall can be reached at 610-820-6581 or peter.hall@mcall.com.

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