In Billings Park, which is in Superior Wisconsin there was a small Grocery store that had been around for generations. It was called Les’ Grocery store and was owned by the Gran family. Lynnea Gran and her four children, lived next door to the grocery store. Lynnea was a single mother, recently she had gone through a bitter divorce. Her children’s names were Richard, Lynnea, Rodger and I couldn’t find the name of the fourth child. In the Forensic File episode, her son Richard described her as very loving and very sweet - even when she didn’t have to be. In 1986 all of Lynnea's children had grown up and moved out of the house, except Rodger who was only 17 at the time.
On the night of August 9th, 1989 Lynnea was working at the store and Rodger had headed out to a county fair to spend time with his friends. At around 2 am he returned home and noticed his mother wasn’t there, he went to the store to check on her and what he found was a crime scene.
Lynnea had been brutally murdered and was lying face down on the floor. Rodger called 911 and when they arrived he was sitting outside the store waiting for them to arrive. Roger was in tears and when the officer went inside the store, it is said that another officer had to hold Roger back. The crime scene was particularly violent, there was blood absolutely everywhere. District Attorney Dan Blank later said, “The crime scene was probably as horrific and gruesome as any of the investigations I’ve come across.”
One thing the investigators couldn't find though was motive. No money was stolen from either the cash register or Lynneas purse. There was no sexual assault or any indication that this was the motive, her clothes had not been messed with. After the autopsy, they found that Lynnea had been beaten to death with a blunt object and had been hit between 15 and 30 times.
Because it was so brutal, investigators assumed that the murderer would be someone close to Lynnea, as random killers don’t typically kill with such brutality. They considered that someone had tried to rob the store but had backed out or gotten scared, but they didn't know.
As they looked into Lynnea’s life, they found that she didn't have any known enemies other than her ex-husband. He was considered a suspect for a short time as the divorce had been so bitter, however at the time of the murder he was in Ohio and had many witnesses so he was quickly taken off the list.
Investigators thought that the county fair may have contributed to the murder. They knew the fair brought people into the town and they knew that crime rates went up a bit, so they considered this for a short while.
But then they started to find some evidence.
They discovered shoe prints at the crime scene.
After an analysis of the shoe marks, they discovered that they actually matched Roger's shoes, which didn't seem so out of the question or suspicious as he had found his mother and he had an alibi for the time of the murder since he had been at the fair. He did admit though that he didn't remember much, he said that he had been drinking and doing drugs that night and could only really remember finding his mother's body.
Investigators searched the home that Lynnea and Roger shared and they found something, a possible murder weapon. A hammer that was in the drawer next to the kitchen sink. Some items of Rodger's clothing were also taken for testing including a jean jacket, a pair of jeans and some shoes.
Although they felt that the hammer could be the murder weapon, they were unable to find any traces of blood on either the handle or the head. They moved on to Roger's clothing they found blood on his clothing, but he had already told them that he had found his mother, held her head and tried to revive her. Roger did end up being a suspect however and was taken into custody. He was held for three days, and on August 12th he was released and went to live with a relative. Ultimately he wasn’t charged because it was considered that he had a solid alibi by being at the fair.
Not too long after Lynneas death, in November 1986 there was another murder.
180 miles away in Eau Claire, a man named Dale Staupe had been beaten to death with a hammer.
And they had caught the murderer.
Steve Hanson who was 19 at the time was arrested and confessed to the killing of the man.
He denied he had anything to do with Lynneas murder. Investigators felt like there had to be a connection, it seemed too much of a coincidence to have two murders in the same area carried out in a similar way.
Turns out, Steve and Roger knew each other. They had mutual friends and had done drugs together. Investigators suspected that the two might have had a disagreement about drugs and Steve had lashed out by killing Roger's mother. Steve had an alibi he was in Eau Claire and there was no way he could have been in Superior at that time.
When you compare the murder of Lynnea and the crime committed by Steve, they really have nothing in common, other than a hammer.
Steve had met this Dale at an adult bookstore, Dale had invited Steve to his apartment to watch porn. Supposedly Dale attempted to make sexual advances on Steve and he was not really into it. I guess Dale asked him to tie him up, Steve agreed but once he had done that he took Dale’s car keys and tried to steal the car. When Dale realized what was going on he started to yell and Steve hit him over the head with a hammer to keep him quiet. Dale didn’t die of the hit to the head, he actually died of suffocation and strangulation assisted by the head wounds.
So really, when you look at it… it was a huge coincidence.
At this point investigators had no suspects, they were stuck in the case, and years started to pass. 20 years in fact. The cold case was finally reopened by the Superior Police Department. Now we are in 2004 and forensic science has improved in an amazing way
Although they had no witnesses, no suspects, no idea where to look, they felt that this case could be solved with forensics.
They decided to reexamine the hammer from the kitchen. A lot had changed since 1986, including the microscopes and DNA. They now had an incredibly strong microscope and the ability to test very small samples of DNA, and they got lucky. They were able to find very small traces of blood on the hammer and DNA testing was conducted. It matched Lynnea - finally confirming the suspicion that the hammer was in fact the murder weapon.
They then decided to test the jean jacket that had been taken from Roger's room at the time of the investigation. They found blood spatter. Not drips or smears, high velocity spatter.
After the DNA test, they found that the blood belonged to Lynnea. They also found a smear on the inside of the jacket, the presumed that Roger had put the hammer in the inside pocket of the jacket when he had left the store. They concluded that he had either been the one to kill her or very very close to whoever did.
On August 5th, 2005, they called Roger in for questioning and showed him the evidence, at this point, he is 38 years old with a family of his own, including two teenage children. He told them he couldn’t remember much from that day. Instead of saying he was absolutely innocent and not involved with the crime at all, Roger remained calm during questioning. They asked him to tell them the story again, and it was a different story than the one he had originally told.
Roger said that he and his mother had had an argument the night of the murder, before he had gone to the fair. It had been about money. She had refused to give him any and also told him he wasn’t allowed to use the family car. Investigators believe she didn't give him money or the car because she knew he was going to do drugs.
He told them that when he had left his mother “was not dead” he didn’t say she “wasn’t hurt” or she “was fine” he specifically said “she wasn’t dead” indicating that he knew something had been wrong with her before he had left.
Investigators believe that Roger had gotten angry at his mother, he went to his home, grabbed the hammer and killed his mother. After cleaning up he headed to the county faire to meet his friends and establish an alibi. At 2 am he returned home and called 911 to report the murder of his mother.
His brother claimed that Roger was not in his right mind and if he hadn’t been under the influence of drugs and alcohol he wouldn't have ever done anything like this.
In the 20 years between the murder and him being caught, Roger had had a difficult life, divorce, rehab, psych wards you name it. Believe it or not, during this whole time he was still living in Superior, some say it was guilt holding him there.
The district attorney sought the maximum punishment in this case, 20 years in prison. He said, “for 20 years, Mr. Gran has continued to lie and has failed to come clean”. However, Roger's attorney, Patrick O’Neill, who had actually represented him when he was brought into custody the first time tried to get much less. He said that Roger had “suffered enough by living with the guilt and the community’s suspicion for 20 years.” Rogers sister Lynnea also agreed with this, saying “His debt has already been paid in full. Let us for once and for all put to rest the abuses and unresolved anger in the Gran family.
Many things were considered in the case, the fact that Roger had been 17 years old when it happened, that he was drunk and high on supposedly LSD and the fact that he had been allegedly sexually abused by his mother.
During his sentencing, Roger made a statement, he said “I need to say I’m sorry. If I could fo back and change this, I would.”
Roger pleaded guilty to second degree murder to avoid putting his family through a trial and was sentanced to 15 years in prison he would be eligible for parole in a quarter of his sentence which would be a little more than three years.
This case is a real great reminder that if you collect this evidence the right and legal way, just because you can’t solve it now doesn’t mean you won’t solve it at all. In a quote by Chip Selby who was the producer of this episode he 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."
I couldn’t really find any information on if he has been released yet, I am assuming he hasn’t been and is still in jail although maybe he is getting out in 2020 as it would have been 15 years.
Unfortunately, Robert Gran, who was the brother interviewed in the Forensic File episode passed away in 2016.
Les's Grocery has permanently closed.
Stevens Point Journal (Stevens Point, Wisconsin) 12 Aug 1986
Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, Wisconsin) 8 May 1987
Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wisconsin) 14 Aug 2005