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05 December 2023

Man gets 10 to 20 years in death of woman missing since 1991

Photo: AP


A man has been sentenced to 10 to 20 years on a murder conviction in the disappearance a quarter-century ago of a woman whose body has never been found.

Senior Lycoming County Judge Kenneth Brown sentenced Loyd Groves in Clinton County Thursday to the maximum term in effect for third-degree murder in effect at the time of the crime.

The maximum term has since been increased to 20 to 40 years, and Brown said he would have imposed that if allowed, describing the crime as “horrendous.”

Groves, 69, was convicted in the death of 40-year-old Katherine Heckel, who was last seen in July 1991 leaving Lock Haven’s former International Paper Co. mill for lunch.

She was declared legally dead in 1998.

Authorities said Groves was a suspect immediately but wasn’t arrested until January 2015.

Prosecutors alleged that Heckel was killed after she told Groves she wanted to end their brief relationship.

A statewide grand jury presentment said blood found in an area where carpet was removed from his van matched that of Heckel.

Witnesses reported hostile behavior on his part toward the victim and a lack of concern after she went missing, the report said.

Groves, who did not testify, maintains his innocence.

He told the judge he feels compassion for Heckel’s loved ones but “The cause of this loss was not on me. ... I committed no crime.”

Defense attorney George Lepley Jr., who has vowed an appeal, sought a term in the four- to 10-year range, citing his client’s age, health, behavior since arrest and lack of a criminal record. “A 10-year minimum is likely a death sentence for him,” Lepley said.

Groves did not mention Heckel’s name or look at her relatives as they described how her death had impacted their lives, urging the maximum sentence.

“I feel Mr. Groves has my daughter’s blood on his hands,” Heckel’s mother, Margaret Dolan, said. “Groves refuses to tell us what happened in July 1991.”

Groves will receive credit for time served since his arrest, which will total four years by the end of the month, the judge said.