Police said they found numerous inconsistencies in Derek Horton’s story and now are treating the investigation as a homicide

By Christine Pelisek
July 13, 2020 04:05 PM
Amber Griffin

Michigan authorities are searching for the remains of a missing 27-year-old woman who vanished last month.

Amber Griffin was reported missing on June 24 by her mother and boyfriend, Derek Horton, 25, who is now facing an open murder charge in connection with her disappearance.

Police said they found numerous inconsistencies in Horton’s story and now are treating the investigation as a homicide.

“After he claimed to have last seen her and before he reported her missing we identified a surveillance video of him purchasing a shovel from a local hardware store,” Battle Creek Police Department Detective Sgt. Joel Case tells PEOPLE. “Based on just that, we have reason to believe he possibly buried her.”

Amber’s body has not been found.

Amber Griffin

Police believe the couple went to a small house party on June 22 and Horton allegedly killed her there in the early morning hours of June 23.

“We had a 911 call from her cell phone,” says Case. “It was in the area of that party where the dispatcher heard what appeared to be a struggle between a man and a woman.”

Case says Horton has since denied that he was at the gathering and said he last saw Griffin walking away from the trailer park community where they lived in a camper on June 22.

“She supposedly left but didn’t have her wallet, phone, or insulin,” says Case. “She was insulin dependent. There has been zero contact with mother, friends or her children. She was a no show at work.”

Derek Horton
Battle Creek Police Department

Police later found traces of blood in the basement, main level and upstairs portions of the house where the gathering occurred.

“The blood is still being tested,” says Case. “But based on witness statements, we are beyond confident it is her."

Case says Horton is seen on surveillance buying a shovel from Mix Hardware in Battle Creek on the afternoon of June 23. The following day he reported her missing to police.

“He was completely cooperative with us, playing up the story he was concerned about her, but once we presented the video of him purchasing the shovel that is when he lawyered up and we haven’t talked to him since,” says Case.

Police have also arrested 27-year-old Julice Haggerty in connection with the case. Haggerty is facing charges of tampering with evidence and lying to a peace officer in a violent crime investigation. He has yet to be arraigned.

Griffin’s mother Carman Griffin told WOODTV that she texted with her daughter on June 22, the day before she was allegedly killed.

“She left me the text message at 10 o’clock that night,” she said. “She’s like, ‘tell (my kids) I love them, and things are going to change.’ She’s like, ‘I love you mom.’”

Julice Haggerty
Battle Creek Police Department

On Sunday, members of the Michigan Independent Search and Rescue began searching the rural and wooded areas of Battle Creek for Griffin’s remains.

“The search was one of many groups that have been searching for her,” says Case. “It has been an ongoing thing for the last three weeks. Unfortunately we didn’t find her.”

Carman Griffin said she won’t stop until she finds her daughter.

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“We’re just going to search until we find her because we have no choice,” Carman told WOOD.

Horton’s attorney entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf at his arraignment, according to the Detroit Free Press. A preliminary hearing is scheduled July 28.

The Battle Creek Police Department is asking for the public’s assistance finding Amber. If you have any information as to the whereabouts of Amber, you are asked to call Silent Observer at 269-964-3888 or Dispatch at 269-781-0911.