Loyd Groves denies killing Kathy Heckel
LOCK HAVEN — Loyd W. Groves has been sentenced to 10-20 years in state prison for the murder of Kathy Dolan Heckel 27 years ago.
The sentence was handed down by Lycoming County Judge Kenneth Brown Thursday afternoon in the large courtroom at the Clinton County Courthouse where a jury convicted Groves of third-degree murder on Dec. 3, 2018 following an 11-day trial.
“It’s clear to me that the sentence called for is in the aggravated range,” said Judge Brown, calling the crime “horrendous” and pointing to three aggravating factors — disposal of the body where it has never been found, further traumatizing the family; the fact that the victim was a mother of two young children and Groves knew that; and a lack of remorse by Groves, who has not accepted responsibility for Heckel’s death.
The sentence is the maximum sentence for third-degree murder under sentencing guidelines from 1991, when the crime was committed.
Those sentencing guidelines changed in 1995, increasing the maximum sentence for third-degree murder to 20 to 40 years, and the judge said if the current 20 to 40 year maximum sentence was allowed, he would have given that sentence to Groves.
Groves will receive credit for time served in the Clinton County Correctional Facility, which will be four years on Jan. 29, the judge said.
Prior to the sentencing Lepley and Senior Attorney General Daniel Dye, who prosecuted the case, addressed the judge.
And so did Loyd Groves.
It was the first time since he was arrested on Jan. 29, 2015, as he did not take the witness stand during his trial.
Groves stood, dressed in orange prison garb, handcuffed and shackled, and addressed the judge and those in the audience, including dozens of Kathy Heckel’s family members.
“I can’t imagine the pain of losing a loved one. I sympathize with anyone in that loss. There is nothing I can say to make it better. The cause of this loss was not on me. I hurt to know about it. I committed no crime. When I married I committed myself to my family… put all my efforts on my family. My children and wife were the most important things to me. I feel sincere compassion for her family because of their loss… I’m sure it is very painful. That’s all I have to say,” Grove said in a clear voice before sitting back down beside defense attorneys David I. Lindsay and George E. Lepley Jr.
Lepley asked the judge to consider starting in the middle of the sentencing guidelines and go down, noting that Groves had no prior criminal activity, his age of 69, his health in that he’s had three heart attacks and triple bypass surgery, that he’s been in prison for almost four years and has been a model inmate with no write-ups.
“He’s always maintained his innocence and recognizes the pain of Kathy Heckel’s family. His family has also suffered pain… he’s asked them not to be here today to see that pain. He was a good family man, provider and husband and still takes care of his wife after their divorce. A 10-year minimum is likely a death sentence for him,” Lepley said.
When Dye rose to speak, he talked about Kathy Heckel’s family.
“They are an amazing family… amazing and strong. This damage has haunted them, made them fearful. What happened to the good ole days. Loyd Groves is what happened. He created fear for this family. I held Kathy’s grandson. He’s an amazing little boy. Here I am … a prosecutor… holding the little boy … an opportunity that Kathy didn’t have with her grandson. It’s Loyd Grove’s fault,” Dye said.
He urged the judge to give Grove the maximum sentence, pointing to a lack of remorse, the nature of the crime and him not telling where the body was disposed.
“The verdict started accountability, your sentence will end it,” Dye told the judge.
Dye continued, “The only way to remove a cancer is to excise it. To this family and this community, Loyd Groves was a cancer. Excise that cancer. Remove him from society. Loyd Groves had his day. God willing we’ll all forget Loyd Groves.”
“Over 100 men and women in law enforcement … hundreds of thousands of hours of manpower, hundreds of thousands of dollars … to find Kathy Heckel, but they could not. Because of Loyd Groves,” Dye said.
Besides the 10 to 20 years in state prison, the judge also ordered Groves to pay all costs of prosecution and a $10,000 fine.
Although Groves will be eligible for parole in 10 years, Judge Brown said that parole is not automatic. He said the victims will be notified when he comes up for a parole hearing and will be able to make the parole board aware of their feelings, as they did in court with their impact statements.