Investigators Expand Search For Tara Grant

Local 4 Travels To Escanaba For Latest On Investigation

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. – Investigators expanded their search for missing Washington Township mother Tara Grant this week.

It has been 21 days since Tara Grant went missing.

Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel said other searches have been conducted near Escanaba, where Tara Grant's family has a cabin in Rock. The 44-acre parcel of land is used for hunting and making maple syrup, the family said.

Investigators decided to look there in case Tara Grant possibly retreated for some quiet time, and also to look for evidence of foul play.

Escanaba is roughly an eight-hour drive from Tara Grant's Washington Township home.

Investigators from the Delta County Sheriff's Department said they searched that property and other property south of the Rock cabin with Grant's family, but did not found any signs of activity at either location. They said they only saw deer tracks in the snow. People who live nearby said the snow only arrived about a week ago.

Hackel added there will be other searches that will be low profile and may not be known about publicly. Hackel said a law enforcement agency from the U.P. conducted the search, and he said he is grateful for their coopertion with his department.

Local 4's Kevin Dietz talked to some of Tara Grant's friends and classmates. Tara Grant grew up in Rock and attended Mid-Peninsula High School where she was a cheerleader.

Jennifer Bagwell, a childhood friend said they are remembering what she was like and are hoping she comes home. Bagwell said they have put posters up around town.

On Thursday, Rescue 4 obtained a copy of the police report from the night Tara Grant's husband, Stephen Grant, was pulled over and arrested for a traffic violation. Police said he was pulled over in Mount Clemens for failing to signal, but was arrested because he was driving on a suspended license.

Stephen Grant allegedly told the officer before being asked for identification, "I know why you're pulling my over. It's because (of) my wife."

The officer inquired about his wife, and Stephen Grant replied, "... my wife left for San Juan approximately five days ago and I haven't heard from her since."

He went on to say, "... she works for Washington Construction, a huge world wide company... " Stephen Grant then told the officer police had already been to his home.

According to the police report, two envelopes of money were discovered by officers with a total of $4,000 inside. Stephen Grant said one envelope was money to pay his attorney, and the other held his cashed paycheck.

Hackel said he was stopped because he broke the law, not because he wife was missing.

"(He was) in Mount Clemens when we made the stop," Hackel said. "And the officer did the right thing. He made the stop, recognized he had a suspended license and brought him in."

On Wednesday, Local 4 sat down with Tara's Grant's sister Alicia Standerfer in Ohio, who shared some home videos of intimate family moments.

Hearing Tara Grant's voice and watching the videos was difficult for Alicia, but she feels they are important to share.

"It's very difficult but at the same time it keeps me grounded," Alicia said.

One video was of the family making homemade syrup in the Upper Peninsula.

"At the time that was filmed her children were very young," Alicia said. "She was very excited to get them up there and share the experience of Grandpa's maple syrup making."

Tara Grant narrates on the video while she gives a tour of their cottage up north.

Hackel said his office is receiving 20 to 25 tips a day in regards to the disappearance of Tara Grant.

"It's still an intensive effort to try and locate exactly where Tara might be," Hackel said. "The focus, still, with this particular situation is the hope she's alive and she's actually someplace on her own free will."

Hackel said a national hot line was established with hopes of generating tips -- the number is 800-690-FIND. Tips are also being called into the Macomb County Sheriff's Department at 586-307-9358.

The search for Tara Grant is also gaining national attention. National news organizations started setting up their satellite trucks at the Macomb County Sheriff's Department Tuesday.

The story first appeared on a national news network Feb. 25, and Hackel talked about her disappearance.

?If she's still alive and sees this she would get somebody to call to say, 'I'm alive, I'm OK, I didn?t know everybody was looking for me,? he said. ?Or someone else could see her somewhere and can give us that information.?

The weekend of March 3-4, the search for Tara Grant will be featured on America?s Most Wanted.

The search has also joined the World Wide Web. A woman who doesn't know the family set up the Web site:

Alicia, Tara Grant's sister, doesn't know the woman, but said she is thankful.

"I was shocked that someone would go through all the trouble who doesn't even know my sister or our family," she said. "But I'm grateful it's being done."

A relative of Tara Grant said she is "absolutely" interested in speaking with psychics who may be able to assist police in finding out what happened to the operations manager.

Standerfer said a number of mediums have already tried to contact her and the police. At this point, the family feels there is nothing to lose by at least listening to people who claim to have helpful information.

"It is correct to say a number of psychics have called us but we haven't had time to get back with them. It's not out of the realm of possibilities that we would contact them at some point," Standerfer told The Macomb Daily Sunday night.

Macomb County Sheriff's investigators met with prosecutors and FBI agents on a task force assembled to solve the mystery of the woman who was reported missing Feb. 14.

Sheriff Mark Hackel he's not convinced Grant is dead or even the victim of foul play.

Investigators interviewed a woman described as a former girlfriend of Stephen Grant who exchanged flirtatious e-mail messages with him.

The first ground search took place Feb. 24 for Tara Grant at Stoney Creek Metro Park in Shelby Township, an area she used to frequent with her family.

Early Saturday morning, 150 police personnel used search dogs, all-terrain vehicles, air-support units and riders on horseback to comb the park and surrounding areas looking for any evidence of her disappearance.

The search ended around 12:30 p.m., and Hackel said no evidence was discovered. Investigators will meet again Monday to decide when and where they are going to search next, Hackel said.

"This is a difficult day, this is when people or the family especially starts to see it as, 'Did something tragic happen to her?'" Hackel said. "We don't have information at this time that that actually took place. What we're trying to do is get something going and look for evidence in case there might some be some right now."

He added there was no particular reason they were checking Stony Creek, but as time goes by it's important to the investigation that they obtain some sort of evidence now.

Standerfer traveled from Ohio to be near the search efforts, and said that although she has hope her sister is alive, the day still seemed surreal and she felt numb.

Tara Grant's husband Stephen Grant did not show up for the search, under the advice of his attorney. Stephen Grant told Local 4 by telephone on Friday that he would not be be there because Hackel offended him after making some comments.

Local 4 reported that early in the investigation Stephen Grant said Hackel named him the No. 1 suspect in his wife's disappearance. When Local 4 reporters asked Hackel about Stephen Grant's statement, Hackel said he was stunned and that Stephen Grant is portraying himself as a victim.

Hackel did not want to discuss Stephen Grant on Saturday during the search, and said his only objective was looking for any evidence in the disappearance of Tara Grant. He added that the search was police-related and the public was not involved.

Hackel said his team is looking into both extremes of the investigation -- whether Tara Grant is missing and hasn't notified anyone yet and is still out there, or if someone had possibly harmed her.

Investigation Has Puerto Rico Ties The search efforts don't stop in Michigan. The sheriff's department is forming a task force with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Michigan State Police. Hackel said they are also in contact with authorities in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Tara Grant worked.

Since 1995, Tara Grant has been operations manager at Idaho-based Washington Group International, an engineering and construction management company. The company required her to travel to the Puerto Rico office in the San Juan business district, Monday through Friday, as part of her job.

Local 4 was in Puerto Rico on Friday where employees at Tara Grant's office said they were not allowed to talk about the investigation, but they said they were concerned for her welfare.

The company is cooperating fully with the investigation, Hackel said, and has allowed investigators to inspect her work computer for evidence.

A spokesman for Tara Grant's employer said, "We share the concern of Tara's family and friends over her disappearance and are hoping for her safe return."

Local 4's Karen Drew reported Tara Grant was assigned to shut down the San Juan office and lay off 50 people, plus there were rumors she was having a relationship with someone in the office, but investigators said they can't find any connections.

Investigators said they can't even find a sign of foul play at this point.

Drew talked to the executive deputy superintendent of the Puerto Rico Police Department Ramon Ortega, who first learned of Tara Grant?s disappearance in a local newspaper.

While his officers are not assigned to the case, he said the moment they are asked to assist authorities in Michigan they?re ready.

Drew walked the streets of San Juan near Tara Grant's office, showing her photo and asking people if anyone had seen her.

Drew found out that Tara and Stephen Grant's last trip to San Juan was on Jan. 18, where the couple celebrated Stephen's birthday. Drew visited the Marmalade restaurant, one Tara Grant frequented often.

Manager Ish Rivera said he remembers Tara Grant well and that she came in for dinner every week. The couple ate dinner there for Stephen Grant?s birthday, and Rivera said they seemed like a happy couple. He recalled Tara Grant always speaking fondly of her children and husband back home.

Tara Grant Was Last Seen Feb. 9 On Feb. 9, Tara Grant was last seen leaving her Washington Township home where she resides with her husband Stephen Grant, and their two children, ages 4 and 6.

Stephen Grant told police she left their home following an argument and got into a car that he thought was a Metro Car. Tara Grant was supposed to return to Puerto Rico, but failed to make the trip.

Tara Grant's mother, Mary Destrampe, of Ohio, talked to Local 4 about her daughter's disappearance. She said she misses her daughter and wants her home.

Destrampe said she heard of her daughter's disappearance five days after she had disappeared. Stephen Grant called her to tell her the news.

Destrampe said her daughter would never take off on her own because she is too committed to her career and family.

Later in the investigation Stephen Grant told police she made a phone call before she left and told whomever she was speaking to on the phone, "I'll meet you at the end of the driveway."

Stephen Grant also said that this is not the first time Tara Grant has gone missing. According to him, she has disappeared twice before.

Hackel said there is no indication any phone calls were made that night. Records from her personal cell phone and the house phone did not indicate a call was made during that time.

Sophi Vacharadze, an Au Pair from Russia who worked for the Grant family in 2003, talked to Local 4 on Sunday via telephone. When asked about her thoughts on Stephen Grant being a possible suspect she said, ?There?s no way. Impossible? I?m sure it?s not like that.?

She also said she always felt comfortable in the Grant home, and that Tara Grant loved her husband and children.

Local 4 reported that the Grant's have had five Au Pairs over the last few years. Their most recent Au Pair returned to Germany shortly after Tara Grant's disappearance.

Verena Dierkes, 19, was still living in the home the night Tara Grant disappeared. Stephen Grant said Verena returned home from a night out with friends shortly after Tara Grant allegedly vanished. He said at first he thought it was his wife returning when he heard the garage door open.

Police said they have been communicating with her and other former Au Pairs who lived with the family.

Sheriff's Department Builds Investigation Once police started building an investigation, the Macomb County Sheriff?s Office held its first news conference on Feb. 21 to offer updated details to members of the media.

During the conference, Hackel explained Stephen Grant?s criminal past, including careless driving, failure to obtain a gun permit and having a suspended driver's license five times since 2000.

One of the main details in the case thus far is that Stephen Grant has not taken a polygraph test.

"We hope that everyone would understand that we are going to be extremely aggressive, we're going to ask them the tough questions, and we're hoping we get those answers," Hackel said.

"We want those answers as quickly as possible and not where we have to fax questions over to an attorney's office, wait until they are ready to answer them and then fax them back," he added.

Police noted a scratch on Stephen Grant's nose and hand. Police said they took photographs for their records, but Grant said he got the scratches at work, in his father's tool and dye shop.

Stephen Grant said his relationship with the sheriff's department turned sour after he was arrested on a traffic violation.

Stephen Grant's attorney David Griem said the arrest was a pretext to interrogate him about his wife.

"We actually processed him within four hours and sent him on his way," Hackel said. "(In regards to) interrogating and investigating -- it absolutely did not happen, and if that's what he's telling his attorney, then his attorney is basing his information on that."

Investigators Look For Clues On Computers Investigators have been focusing a lot of attention on information kept on any computers used by Tara or Stephen Grant, looking for correspondence or anything else that could be a clue in her disappearance.

On Feb. 23, Stephen Grant brought two laptop computers to the Macomb County Sheriff's Office for authorities to inspect, sheriff's officials said. The Grant's home computer has yet to be turned over to the police, and Hackel said his department has been unable to obtain a search warrant to enter the home. He said he is working with prosecutors to obtain one and hopes to get one this week.

During another news conference on Feb. 23, investigators introduced a series of e-mails sent from Stephen Grant to his ex-girlfriend.

Hackel confirmed that the woman Stephen Grant was e-mailing was a former girlfriend.

In the e-mails, which were obtained by police and are included in the sidebar to this story, Stephen Grant insinuates that Tara Grant was having an affair with a co-worker in Puerto Rico, but when questioned by investigators, the co-worker denied allegations and said the relationship was "strictly business."

Stephen Grant some of the e-mails were inappropriate, but the relationship was platonic and Tara Grant knew about it.

Tara Grant?s sister said when she found out about the e-mails, her opinion of her brother-in-law changed.

"It's very difficult to trust someone again when you've been lied to pointblank," she said.

Stephen Grant's Attorney Talks To Media Griem met with the local media on Feb. 22 and said his client is an emotional wreck over the disappearance of his wife and feels mistreated by the sheriff's department.

Griem said Stephen Grant has been more than cooperative with their investigation.

"He (previously) answered questions for two hours and he agreed to have a lab tech come into his home and look around without a lawyer, because he wanted to do the right thing," Griem said.

Griem added that the sheriff's department is implying his client is the No. 1 suspect. He said the police used Neanderthal tactics by arresting him for the traffic violation.

"We have a job to do right now and that is to locate Tara," Hackel said in response. "The concerns he has to protect his client, that's well understood -- he's supposed to do that as his attorney. Our job is to find her, hopefully she's still alive. Right now we're focusing our attention on foul play."