April 14, 2007 at 1:00 am

Grant's confession: He describes grisly killing, admits affair with au pair

MOUNT CLEMENS -- What started as a jealous argument ended in murder as a naked and enraged Stephen Grant squeezed the life out of his wife, Tara, in their bedroom, according to his statements to police.

Grant grabbed his wife's wrist on the night of Feb. 9 as they fought over the time she was spending with a co-worker.

"She said, 'What, are you going to start hitting me?' She said she knew I didn't have it in me, and I said I wouldn't sink to the level of a two-bit whore," he told police. She smacked him. He pushed her, making her fall back against the wall.

"I grabbed her neck. And at first I was only grabbing her neck to make her stop talking -- to make her shut up. Just kept squeezing, squeezing, squeezing and wouldn't let go," according to his March 4 taped statement to police.

"She finally grabbed my hand at one point, but it was too late then, and I couldn't stop then. I knew I was going to prison. And I panicked."

Thus began a crime that riveted a region and enraged a community. Grant's statements were among the more than 400 pages of documents prosecutors released Friday, including details of how he dismembered and hid her body, had an intimate relationship with the family's German au pair and finally decided that he would end his life in the place where his relationship with his wife had begun.

Grant was captured in Wilderness State Park in northern Michigan on March 4 and is now in the Macomb County Jail awaiting a May 15 preliminary examination on charges of first-degree murder.

In his written statement, Grant said of his actions the night of Tara's death: "It was hateful and mean, but I was lashing out with my words."

Stephen Grant told police that he was naked throughout their argument because he had been ready to go to bed before the fight started. After she fell to the floor near their master bathroom, Tara cursed at him.

"She (was) telling me she would take the kids and house, and I was going to jail," he said.

Afterwards, he feared for his future.

"I'm thinking, 'I killed my wife' thinking my life was over," Grant said.

Grant's attorney, Stephen Rabaut, unsuccessfully sought an emergency court order to bar the release of Grant's statements and related evidence. Rabaut said releasing the information could harm Grant's right to a fair trial. District Judge Denis LeDuc last week denied the request.

"I think it's unfortunate they released this information," Rabaut said. "All I'm trying to do is get Mr. Grant a fair trial."

Rabaut said he has not decided whether to seek a change of venue in the case. "It's way too early to make a determination like that at this point," he said.

When reached late Friday, Tara Grant's sister, Alicia Standerfer, said she hadn't read Stephen Grant's statement, but was hoping to over the weekend.

Dismembering Tara

After hiding Tara's body in her vehicle on the night of Feb. 9, Stephen Grant said he considered his next move for more than a day -- even running errands in his SUV on Saturday, the day after the argument.

"On Sunday morning I took her to the shop," USG Babbitt, the Mount Clemens tool-and-die shop owned by his father, Grant told police. "I had tried to cut something -- her hand or something to make her smaller. I thought, 'I'll use the band saw.' And I'm like, 'No, you can't use the band saw. It's gonna be too much of a mess.'

"So I remembered that my dad had (a hacksaw). I wrapped a washcloth or a blue towel around it and I started cutting with that. And it worked, but then it got dull fast. So I got a new blade and broke it into pieces. And I cut her next joint and the next joint and at some point I threw up And I drank some more whiskey. And then I just told myself, 'Look, if you don't do this, you're going to prison for the rest of your life.' And I kept cutting her."

Grant told police he then put his wife's remains into plastic bags and a Rubbermaid bin.

"Sunday afternoon I went home and I stayed home as much as possible," Grant said. He said he left the bin in the back of Tara's Isuzu Trooper, which he parked in his garage.

"On Sunday I tried to make things as normal as possible for everybody," Grant said, including the German au pair, Verena Dierkes. "And I continuously flirted with Verena because I thought that was the only way I was going to be able to get through this was if she -- she was a nice girl.

"The whole time, (Verena) is thinking Tara left me. So I kept thinking, 'What am I dragging her into?' And then I thought, 'Well, I'm going to get killed in prison. I don't want that.' And I'd do what I had to do.

"If I was 15 years younger, because I had fallen in love with Verena anyhow, easily. Because she was a sweet girl. She's trying to be comforting."

Hiding his wife's body

On Sunday night, Grant said he put a red sled into Tara's sport utility vehicle -- with her body in the back -- and "I drove around trying to find somewhere to hide (the body)," he said. Grant told police he drove around about 3 a.m. Monday morning, eventually deciding on nearby Stony Creek Metropark.

"I put the sled on the ground. And I put the blue bucket on the sled and balanced it. I pulled it up (a) hill. I got about a third of the way in before the hill starts dropping down. It was like the Keystone Kops: the sled took off, and now I'm chasing after the sled with Tara's remains and cut-up body in it."

The body parts fell off the sled and scattered, Grant said.

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, Stephen Grant told police that his wife was missing. The next day, he retained attorney David Griem.

Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel announced a few days later that deputies planned to search the park. "I thought, 'I'm screwed. They're going to find that torso that at this point was still buried in the snow."

Grant said he returned to the park to retrieve the torso, which he then moved to the roof of his father's shop.

When the search in Stony Creek failed to find evidence, Grant became convinced he had escaped detection, according to his statements, and decided to move the torso away from the shop.

'A good place'

On Thursday night, Grant took Tara's torso home and put it in the garage, he said. The next day, police stopped his car as he was driving home from work in order to execute a search warrant of his home. He let officers into his home and then, "I was in a big hurry to get out of there," he said.

"I was in an utter panic. I kept thinking, 'They're out in the garage searching. They're going to get me."

Grant said he borrowed a neighbor's car, then went to his sister's house and tried to commit suicide. "She had some pills -- some Vicodin, so I took those. (I was) looking for something to take because I couldn't find the .38 (pistol)."

Then Grant started driving north. "Man, I drove everywhere," he said. "I'm trying to think of somewhere to go. So I remembered. The first trip Tara and I took was to the Wilderness State Park."

He had hoped, he told police, that the booze he had bought and pills he had taken from his sister's home, combined with the weather, would kill him.

"That was the first place we'd ever went, our first trip ever. It's a good place. To end it."

Detroit News Staff Writers Ronald Hansen and Amy Lee contributed to this story. You can reach George Hunter at (586) 468-7396 or ghunter@detnews.com">ghunter@detnews.com.

Stephen Grant of Washington Township says in reports released by ... (David Coates / The Detroit News)
Stephen Grant leaves Petoskey's Northern Michigan Hospital on March 5, ... (Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News)
Chris Utykanski and his wife, Kelly, Stephen Grant's sister, talk to ... (David Coates / The Detroit News)
Investigators search Stony Creek Metropark for Tara Grant's remains on ... (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)