The Cursed Tale of the Liske Griffin Family Murders
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Hello, I’m Rebekkah Rosewood, and this is Thrice Cursed.
For those of you who followed me over from my former podcast, thank you. And for those who are new, welcome! Before I get into the case, I would like to talk for a moment about Thrice Cursed.
Thrice Cursed will be a true crime, paranormal, and just all around weird stuff podcast. Not only will I cover the typical true crime content, but also dumb criminals, conspiracy theories, cryptids, aliens, and hauntings. While I’ve had a podcast before, I shared it with a co-host, so I’m still trying to get my formatting down, and figure out how much content will be in each episode. If you have any input, feedback, or words of encouragement, feel free to email me at ThriceCursedPod@gmail.com. I appreciate you all from the curse to my hearse for taking the time to give Thrice Cursed a listen.
Now I will be discussing the first of 3 gruesome Halloween murders. I won’t be telling you who committed the crime up front, as I find it far more fascinating to take you through a crime from the investigator’s perspective. Meaning, you will learn everything in the same order they did.
Halloween of 2010 started off just like any other for 16-yr-old Martin, Ohio native Devon Griffin. He had spent the night prior at his father’s house, before heading home Sunday morning around 9:30am to change his clothes for church. While home, Devon noted the presence of his stepbrother before leaving. His stepbrother had seemed uncharacteristically happy, according to Devon. He’d apparently asked him what he was doing, and how long he would be gone.
According to Devon, his stepbrother was usually gloomy, slow, and darkish. But today he was happier, upbeat, and more talkative.
That day’s church service wasn’t a short one, and Devon found himself returning home in the afternoon. Like most teenagers, Devon immediately headed for his room upstairs, intent on playing video games. He did that for a while, before realizing that the house seemed strangely quiet for a Sunday. Why wasn’t anyone in the kitchen, or watching tv, or doing any of the things people usually do on the weekend? His mother Susan never slept in this late. It definitely wasn’t normal for there to be an absence of any noise whatsoever.
More confused than anything else, Devon headed to his parents’ room. Oddly enough, he found his mother and stepfather, William, were still in bed. Their maroon comforter had been pulled over their heads, but he could see his mother’s foot peeking out from beneath the covers. It was certainly strange, but maybe neither of them were feeling well?
He began to speak to his mother, hoping to wake her and get some answers as he approached her side of the bed. When she didn’t respond to his voice, he began to tap her on the leg, the way you do when you’re trying to rouse an exhausted person from their sleep.
That didn’t seem to work either, though. That’s when he pulled down the covers slightly. The first thing he noticed was her pillow. It was soaked in what appeared to be blood. At first, he thought it had to be a prank. It was Halloween, after all. Besides, they had hosted a party the night prior, so maybe it had been leftover from that? Soon though, the realization dawned on him. This wasn’t a prank at all. Someone had murdered 46-year-old Susan Liske, and 53-year-old William Liske.
Devon ran from the home, and quickly called his aunt, Lori Morse. Lori acted quickly, calling the police and informing them that blood had been found everywhere, and that she was on her way to the home now. In this phone call, she also named a relative by the name of William Liske Jr. as a suspect. She said “They’ve had a lot of trouble with him with the law. And he’s threatened Suzie before, but there’s been all kinds of trouble.”
Upon their arrival, the police found that Susan, William, and Susan’s 23-year-old son Derek Griffin had all been murdered. While Susan and William’s bodies had been discovered in their upstairs bedroom, Derek had been found in his bed. A preliminary examination by coroners revealed that the deaths had been caused either by gunshot, or a blunt object. Trauma to all three of their heads was apparent, but they were unsure what had caused it. They also determined that there had been no clear evidence of a struggle. It was likely they had been killed while they slept. Further examination determined they had been shot to death in bed. According to coroner records, William Liske had been shot in the head and face, 5 times, from a range of about one or 2 feet. Susan was awkwardly sprawled as if she may have been moved. She’d been shot 3 times at close range. The family’s many guns were seized as evidence. In this further examination, it was also determined that Susan’s awkward, sprawled positioning was likely due to sexual assault perpetuated by the murderer.
Derek Griffin had been upstairs in his locked bedroom. After kicking the door in, police found him curled up in bed, facing the wall. He had suffered blunt force trauma to the head, and had likely died within a few minutes of the first hit. As for the weapon, a bloody claw hammer was found in the house. This, along with other evidence from around the home was also seized.
Muddy footprints were also found along a deck near the family’s pond, leading investigators to suspect the murderer had disposed of the .22 caliber gun used in the murders of William and Susan there. The pond was drained in the following investigation, but no weapon was found. Even after weapons-sniffing dogs tracked the entire property.
In further discussions with the police officers, Lori also noted that she’d attempted to call the home at 7 and 9am because Derek hadn’t shown up to work. She also reported that a Ford F-150 pickup truck was missing from the property. At this point, Devon’s stepbrother, William Liske Jr., became their primary suspect, as he was nowhere to be found, and a vehicle belonging to the family was missing.
24-yr-old William Liske Jr., who was referred to by his family as “BJ.” which is also what I will be referring to him as for the sake of clarity, was arrested 170 miles away at a cabin believed to belong to a relative. This cabin was located in Carroll County. It was later discovered that this cabin was actually the same cabin B.J. and his father had gone to for their hunting trip.
His location was discovered by Deputy Michael Balash after he’d spotted a white Ford pickup truck, matching the description of the vehicle BJ was believed to be driving. He reported that Liske exited the building, then leaned against a porch post, smoking a cigarette. Balash approached, gun drawn, before taking BJ down, holding him at gunpoint until backup could arrive to assist in handcuffing him. The arrest went down without a hitch.
The bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation as well as the Carroll County Sheriff's department carried out a search of BJ’s property and vehicle, and his clothing was taken into evidence.
BJ. was initially charged with one count of murder. They charged him with only one because it was enough to hold BJ until the case could be presented to a jury, wherein they could determine if they could charge him with more.
After his arrest, BJ spent the afternoon handcuffed to a bench in the holding area of the Carroll County Sheriff’s department. After being transferred from the holding cell to the receiving cell, an officer by the name of LeMonte told BJ to put on a suicide-prevention smock. BJ refused, adamantly stating that he was not taking his clothes off. When LeMonte reached for BJ’s shirt, he was met with a punch to the jaw, and a scratch across his face. Despite the assault, no additional charges were brought against him, and with the assistance of another officer accompanied with the threat of a stun gun, BJ complied.
My question, going into this case, was what was his motive? You don’t just up and murder your family out of the blue one day. And why, if BJ saw Devon that morning, did he choose to allow him to leave? Had BJ already murdered his family prior to seeing Devon that morning, or did something set him off after the 16-yr-old had already left?
Unfortunately, not a single one of my questions has a solid answer.
As far as motive is concerned, there was a long history between BJ. and the local authorities. They had been called on numerous occasions to the Liske residence because of disturbances involving BJ. These offenses were described by one Sargeant by the name of Davis, as violent.
For example, in 2002, William Liske called police to the house because the then 16-yr-old had threatened to harm himself. At the time, he had been on house arrest for an unknown reason. According to police records, he had attacked the officers upon their arrival, and ended up facing charges in juvenile court for assaulting a police officer. In October 2004, BJ got into a fight with his stepmother and hit her in the chest with quite some force. Just two months later, his stepmother was forced to file a felonious assault charge when BJ was alleged to have hit her upside the head with a coffee cup before taking her keys and stealing her car. This charge, in addition to a robbery charge were eventually dropped because he was found incompetent to stand trial.
More stories surfaced from friends, family members, and neighbors after the triple homicide.
These stories included a time William had kicked his son out after he’d attempted to attack Susan as she showered. He was 18 at the time.
Despite all of this behavior, William refused to give up on his son, offering nothing but unconditional love. In February 2006, the father filed for guardianship.
By 2007, the then-18-yr-old had been hospitalized for schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. --I think it’s important that I interject here. While those of you who may have followed me over from my former podcast know my stance on this, I cannot stress this enough. Just because you’re not neurotypical does NOT mean you will become a murderer, or even be violent for that matter. With proper diagnoses and treatment, it’s far more likely that you will be a well-adjusted, and productive member of society. I understand there is a huge stigma behind mental health and atypical neurological function, and I refuse to be a part of it. Now, back to the case.--
After being moved to a group home for mental health patients called Sandusky, BJ had at least 3 violent encounters with law enforcement. One such incident included a physical fight with his father as he was picked up from the home.
One family friend, Mark Gradel recalled several conversations he’d had with William Liske over the course of their friendship. Those conversations revolved around the family’s safety being jeopardized by BJ. Those concerns were always met with “B.J. won’t hurt us.” Unfortunately, when you are so close to someone, it can be impossible to see past your love for them, and through to the devastation and destruction they’ve already caused. William had received several physical injuries from his son prior to these conversations.
Gradel and his wife Michele also suspected BJ of killing and wounding several of their pets, including a dog that was injured by two .22-caliber bullets.
This same friend joined William, BJ, and a few others at a Halloween party Saturday evening, the night before the brutal murders. William and BJ had just returned from a father son hunting trip before the party. Gradel said that everyone appeared to have been in good spirits and enjoying themselves.
BJ rarely spent the evening at the home of William and Susan due to the past violence, but because William had spent the evening drinking at the party, he decided it would be more dangerous to take the teen home to Sandusky rather than to have him spend the night.
Michele Gradel reported to investigators that approximately 6:30 am on October 31st, she heard what sounded like gunshots. I couldn’t find the exact time of death for the family, but if Michele Gradel’s time frame was correct, Devon would have come across BJ after he had committed the murders. That’s chilling, as the 24 yr old would have then made the decision to allow the teen to live, despite reports stating that the two didn’t get along. Or, was her timeline off? Was the reason BJ asked how long Devon would be gone, not because he was planning his escape, but instead plotting the family’s murders? Because I was unable to locate that information, I’m unable to speculate further.
As of November 2010, BJ was charged with six counts of aggravated murder, 2 counts for each person killed. Three of the counts were murder with prior calculation and design, and three were murder committed in the commission of aggravated robbery. On these charges, BJ pleaded not guilty.
He was held in the Ottawa County jail on a $3million dollar bond, and was represented by 2 court-appointed attorneys, Adrian Cimerman and Jon Thebes. Another attorney, Gary Kohli, was appointed as BJ’s guardian. It was Gary Kohli who requested, and was granted, a gag order, preventing information from being immediately released in this case.
After 2 individual competency evaluations, William Liske Jr. was found competent to stand trial for the murders of his father, William Liske; step-mother, Susan Liske; and step-brother, Derek Griffin. A pre-trial hearing was scheduled for 9am on August 12th. It was at this hearing that BJ pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated murder in exchange for the death penalty being removed from possible sentences. Before his sentencing, Liske apologized for killing his family members, blaming mental illness and Satan for his actions.
In September of 2011 William Liske Jr. was sentenced to 3 sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole. On March 31st, 2015, William BJ Liske was found dead in his cell of a self-inflicted wound.
Now, I’d like to take some time to s peak to the personalities of those that died. In true crime, it’s common to forget that these are real people who tragically lost their lives before their time. All information I’m about to relay comes from legacy.com
Derek L. Griffin was 23 years old at the time of his death. He was born on July 30th, 1987, son of Gary and Susan Morse Griffin. He graduated Oak Harbor High School in 2005, where he had been active in track. He was a second degree black belt, and a member of St. Jon Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oak Harbor. His favorite pastime was spending time on Lake Erie in his sailboat and his father’s inflatable dinghy. One friend by the name of Emily Christyson had this to say about him. “Derek was one of my best friends in the entire world and he will be deeply missed by myself, as well as everyone who met him-- even if it was a brief encounter. He never failed at making my day better in the smallest ways. Whenever I needed someone to talk to, he was always right there for me. I will never forget all of our dumb inside jokes, midnight runs to Wendy’s, and the fact that he never taught me how to longboard. He has been a huge part of my life, and will continue to be. I miss him terribly and wish more than ever I could see him one last time, but I know that wouldn’t be enough.”
Susan M. Liske was born on January 30, 1964 to Benny and Edna Morse. Susan was the office manager for Northwest Ohio Carpenter’s Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee. She too was a member of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church. She enjoyed hunting, camping, and gardening. She had a big heart and was a loving mother, aunt, and friend. A friend, Shelly Thoman said on her memorial page, “Susan, from the moment you walked into work with Devon I knew we would be friends and not coworkers. I said it then when we met, how our boys were the same age and they would be best friends. Little did I know that he would grow to one day call you mom, and I would think of you as a big sister and not just a coworker. Your joy, laughter, insight, kindness, and generous heart followed you everywhere you went. It’s hard to know that you won’t call about a weekend plan, or I won’t be getting an e-mail about just anything. Or just a call… You were a great wife to Bill, an awesome mom to not just your kids, but to all of them that called you “mom,” and a wonderful friend/sister to all who knew you.
William “Bill” E. Liske was born May 11, 1957 to William E. and Shirley Liske. William was a United States Air Force Ceteran, and worked for Waste Management. He, like Susan, enjoyed hunting, fishing, gardening, and being in the outdoors. He was a loving husband and father. Friends Jake and Nicole Gradel said “Bill, you were an amazing friend to the family! Jake and I will miss your humor and the love you had for us.. We will miss that pumpkin patch that you made for Mason and Owen every year. Mason said a prayer for you and Suzie Sunday evening. He misses you guys.”
It has been 10 years since this needless tragedy, and I can only hope that their family members, and especially Devon, have been able to find some semblance of peace in the aftermath.
This has been the cursed tale of the Liske/Griffin Family Murders.
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Until next time, keep your curses hexy, and your hexes sexy.
Dailymail.co.uk, timesreporter.com, wtol.com, sanduskyregister.com, thenews-messenger.com, toledoblade.com, nbc24.com, anc7.com, publicpolicerecord.com, legacy.com, findagrave.com, portclintonnewsherald.com, cbsnews.com