Family pleads for maximum sentence
LOCK HAVEN — Approximately 20 of Kathy Heckel’s relatives implored Senior Judge Kenneth Brown to impose the maximum sentence of 20 years on Loyd W. Groves.
Emotions were high and many tears were shed Thursday as members of Heckel’s family read their impact statements in the large courtroom, prior to Groves sentencing.
Her family expressed the grief, pain and suffering they’ve experienced over the last 27 years.
Kathy’s sister, Cynthia Dolan, spoke of the “terrible, gut wrenching journey” Kathy’s family has experienced.
“My parents were taken over by grief. She lost not only a sister but her best friend. There’s an empty place in our hearts and our homes,” she continued.
Kathy’s children, Alicia Heckel Talbot and John W. Heckel IV both described their last moments with their mother.
Alicia said her mother kissed her good-bye on the morning of July 15, 1991.
“That was the last time she would kiss me good-bye,” she said, as her brother rose from his seat and comforted his sister.
“I was 13 the day my mom was murdered … I wasn’t ready for life without my mom,” she said. “She missed 27 years of the most influential time of my life. I suffer from the feeling that anything good in my life could be taken,” she continued.
She described her mother’s laugh, her silliness, that she was a wonderful mother.
“She was human, she did make mistakes, but she didn’t deserve to die,” she said.
Although there is relief that Groves was found guilty, the family does not have closure, she said.
“We will not have closure until we know where my mom’s body is.” she said.
When John IV stood in front of the podium, both his sister and their father, John W. Heckel III, held him and offered support.
“I can vividly remember the night of July 15, 1991,” he said, describing his grandparents panic when they learned Kathy hadn’t come home.
When his father came home days later, he said they “cried for what seemed like an eternity.”
“He held me … like he was protecting me from a monster,” he said. “We never got to say good-bye. My life permanently changed that day.”
He listed the things that his mother missed, from the graduations, weddings to the birth of her first grandson.
“She would be the happiest, most proud grandmother,” he said.
“I’m addressing you as a man with a family, not the boy I was,” he said. “Loyd Groves has been free to live his life how he chose. He killed my mother … he should spend the rest of his life in prison because he took her life.”
John W. Heckel III, Kathy’s husband, spoke next.
He described his last moments with his wife on July 6, 1991.
Heckel said he was leaving for Fort Drumm that morning and Kathy drove him to the National Guard Armory in Woodward Township at 3:30 a.m.
“Why do you have to be here so early,” he said Kathy asked him.
“It’s my job,” he replied.
“Those were the last words we spoke,” he said. “Never in 18 years had she ever asked me that question.”
When he learned of her disappearance on July 16, 1991, he said he came to the realization that Kathy was afraid of something that morning,” he said.
Heckel expressed his determination to find out what happened to his late wife.
“I’ve spent over 27 years pursuing justice for her,” he said. “Loyd Groves premeditated and planned the meeting. He took her life and disposed of her body. He destroyed the life of our family and his family,” he said.
“Did Kathy Heckel deserve to lose her life by ending an affair?” he asked.
“NO,” he shouted.
Kathy’s brother Stephen, also shared his thoughts. His words were read by his son Kurt.
“She was a very loving and caring sister,” Kurt said.
Stephen expressed his grief, knowing he wasn’t able to help his sister and said their lives were never the same after Kathy disappeared.
“This is far from closure. Closure will come when he admits his crime and tells us where her remains are,” Kurt read.
Kathy’s niece Danielle spoke next, saying she was speaking on behalf of both her father, the late Daniel Dolan and her Aunt Kathy.
“It is because of Kathy I am able to write this letter,” she said.
She said Kathy donated a kidney to her father without a second thought in 1971.
After her father’s passing, he was cremated and his ashes were placed in an urn, she said.
Danielle said she remembers a moment when her grandmother, Margaret Dolan, placed her hand on the urn and said, “They’re both in there … I have to say good-bye to both of them. This is the last piece of her we had.”
“I didn’t just lose my cousin, I lost my best friend,” Kathy’s cousin, Sharlene Peters said.
She and Kathy were born only two days apart and were very close, serving as maid of honor at each other’s weddings and godmothers to one another’s daughters, she said.
Kathy’s mother, Margaret Dolan, said the family has been punished for a lifetime.
“Mr. Groves refuses to tell us where Kathy’s remains are,” she said.
When Margaret finished her pre-typed letter she asked Judge Brown if she could make one final statement.
Given approval she said, “I feel that Mr. Groves has my daughter’s blood on his hands and may God help him.”