The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil,
but because of those who look on and do nothing.

~~~ Albert Einstein

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A Slaying In the Suburbs-- The Tara Grant Murder

I recently had the chance to read A Slaying in the Suburbs, The Tara Grant Murder which chronicles the relationship of Stephan and Tara Grant from their first moments together to the heinous ending of what often appeared to be a perfect marriage. To be frankly honest- this was a case I'd had enough of halfway through the media frenzy and quickly began making sure I flipped the TV channel whenever a network even hinted at another update coming in. Sometimes, it's best to wait until it's all said and done before drawing conclusions- which has proven true once again after reading the book.

Reporters Steve Miller and Andrea Billups worked together on the book, bringing new depths to the saga that millions watched unfold in early 2007 thanks to non stop coverage by local Michigan and national news outlets.

Through interviews with family members, former friends and even Stephan Grant himself, Miller and Billups have presented an intense portrait of Stephan-- from his wayward actions as a young boy to his ability to pull off the murder of his wife and shortly afterward remind his would be lover that she owed him a kiss- without missing a step.

For those who watched the case unfold on the news, new details in the story may have you questioning what you thought you knew- the dynamics of the Grants relationship, the affirmation by family members of Tara that this was a relationship with ongoing domestic abuse by Stephan, and cast a strong shadow of doubt on so called "absolute truths" regarding the relationship and even murder of Tara.

Tara, far from being a wall flower is shown to be a highly motivated woman, compelled to succeed at all costs. Even as a young girl, she displayed an intense desire to become an accomplished something, even if she didn't exactly know what that would be. She, ever filled with ambition, never appears to be that battered and abused woman so many now cast her as. That's not to say it didn't happen- just that those around her pictured her more as a strong willed fighter, to involved in her pursuit of success to ever be dominated.

Stephen, the so called 'mastermind' of a murder so hideous that it shocked even long time law enforcement officials, comes off more as a depressed loser always condemned to play second fiddle to his wife's growing success. If he was any more pitiful, you might feel sorry for him- if not for the fact that he murdered his wife and cut her up into pieces. While he was often cast as a plotting cold blooded murderer, he comes off too aloof to plot something as simple as an affair- let alone a detailed murder scheme. In the entire book, the only ones that seem less capable than Stephen is the many law enforcement officials who blundered away the case at every given chance.

The book, detailed and provocative, puts the entire Grant relationship in a new light- adding the pieces of the story that the mainstream news cautiously left out. A glimpse of the torn relationship- decorated by text messages and emails to ex lovers, flings and such from both parties; the fallout over time spent away from the family on Tara's part; even the rocky nature of past relationships and life lessons seemed to have played a part in turning what many considered a perfect relationship into a dreadful made for the movies murder.

In the end beneath the repulsion for Stephan's crime, there's a lingering hint of sympathy for the man who undoubtedly married above his class, above his ambition, and above his eventual level of success. His goals seemed to be complete just by marrying the attractive ambitious brunette... her's seemed to grow ever bigger by each mark of success she accomplished.

The murder was, as told best by the authors- impassioned but unplanned.

At this best, his thinking was was chaotic, his actions impulsive," she defended, setting the stage for doubt that his actions were premeditated. "Things were done in excitement, fueled by jealousy, anger, fueled by remarks made, angry, mean spirited words, meant to wound, were exchanged between the two. His thinking that day was out of control, not measured, not considered, and certainly not planned."

She had planted the best seed she could. This was a marriage on the rocks between a wife who was accomplished and driven and a husband who felt neglected and demeaned. Steve reacted in the heat of the moment, then ran scared and bumbled as he tried to cover his tracks. He was no cold blooded psychopath but an enraged, dismissed husband who snapped.

Not that murder was ever a viable acceptable option, but somehow in reading the book you begin to get a glimpse of the twisted way Stephan justified his reaction after the fact. While the murder itself wasn't seemingly premeditated- almost every action after, regardless of how down right implausible and lunatic and badly planned was accomplished as quickly as the idea to handle it that way could bounce into Stephan's mind.

The book, well written with insightful details and missing the "shocking" Nancy Grace misconceptions and irrelevant theories, does a good job of telling the actual story- without the false hype that so many of us caught from the mainstream media. It's well worth picking up a copy of.

The book can be purchased via Amazon, and for those interested there is a Facebook group for the book available here.