Jury to resume deliberations this morning

LOCK HAVEN — After a weekend recess, the jury in the Loyd Groves murder trial was scheduled to return to the Clinton County Courthouse this morning to resume deliberations.

Groves is charged with killing Kathy Heckel, who disappeared 27 years ago on July 15, 1991.

Close to 100 people filled the right side of the large courtroom Friday afternoon as the closing arguments were made by defense attorney David I. Lindsay and Senior Deputy Attorney General Daniel Dye.

Many of those people were Heckel’s family members and friends, and former Hammermill employees, some of whom were in the pews of the courtroom every day during the trial.

During the closing arguments, which lasted for almost three hours, the courtroom was eerily quiet, as those in the courtroom listened carefully to each attorney’s words. After the closing arguments, Senior Judge Kenneth Brown of Lycoming County, who presided over the trial, instructed the jury.

Judge Brown told them their verdict must be unanimous.

He also directed them on the difference between the two charges — first-degree murder and third-degree murder — and told them that the death penalty is not on the table.

The judge told them the defendant is innocent as he sits in the courtroom… that the burden is on the commonwealth to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Heckel is dead and that Groves killed her. The judge also told the jury that they can not take any inference against Groves because he did not choose to testify during the trial.

The four alternate jurors who sat through the trial were then released by the judge, who reminded them that they are still part of the jury and could be called to be part of deliberations if one of the jurors is unable to remain during the entire process. He asked them to leave phone numbers where they can be reached if that happens.

It was just before 6 p.m. when the jurors retired to a third floor room in the courthouse to begin deliberations. Judge Brown told them it was up to them to decide when they wanted to recess and if they desired to return Saturday morning or Monday morning to continue deliberating.

The jurors took with them a great many documents and exhibits presented during the seven-day trial.

As a matter of fact, the closing arguments were delayed from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday due to the large number of exhibits and documents the attorneys and judges were examining to decide which ones should accompany the jury into deliberations.

The six-man, six-woman jury met until about 9 p.m. Friday at the courthouse and then recessed for the weekend.

The jury was not sequestered for the trial and is not sequestered for the deliberations.

The jurors have returned to their homes each evening.

Groves, 69, was arrested on Jan. 20, 2015 and brought back to Clinton County from Beaver, Pa., where he lived. He has remained at the Clinton County Correctional Facility without bail.

The trial was continued several times during those almost four years, once when Groves underwent open heart surgery and another time when Groves’ ex-wife, Kathy Groves, unexpectedly met with police for the first time since Heckel disappeared. It was just days before jury selection was scheduled to begin in June 2018.

That continuance was granted to allow the defense team — Lindsay and George E. Lepley Jr. — to review and investigate the new information brought forward by Kathy Groves.

The trial was rescheduled for this month. Jury selection was completed Nov. 13 and the trial started on Monday, Nov. 19.

Heckel and Groves were both employed by Hammermill Paper Co. and were having an affair, according to court documents, when Heckel, then 40 years old, disappeared. She left Hammermill at lunch time on July 15, 1991 and was never seen again.