On Sunday, October 31, 2010, 16-year-old Devon Griffin returned to his family’s home in Martin, Ohio & encountered what he initially thought was a Halloween prank. He quickly discovered that this was no joke & that his mother, 46-year-old Susan Liske, stepfather, 53-year-old William/Bill Liske & brother, 23-year-old Derek Griffin, had been murdered.
Susan worked as an office manager for Northwest Ohio Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee. She loved gardening, hunting & camping & was described as having a big heart, a loving mother, sister, aunt & friend. Bill was a retired Air Force veteran & like his wife, loved outdoor activities. He was described as an amazing friend & loving husband & father. Derek had a black belt & adored spending time on Lake Erie on his sailboat. A friend said that she would miss their dumb inside jokes, midnight Wendy’s runs & his ability to always make her day & be there for her.
Devon spent the weekend at his dad’s house & the following day, Halloween, he headed home to his mom’s house at 9:30am to change clothes & get ready for church. While getting ready, Devon noticed that his 24-year-old stepbrother, William Liske Jr, who the family called “BJ,” was acting uncharacteristically upbeat & talkative, asking him where he was going & how long he would be gone. Devon described BJ’s typical personality as slow, dark & gloomy so he was surprised that BJ was as engaging as he was that morning. Devon left for church after being home for only approximately five minutes.
The church service ran long that morning & Devon didn’t return home until that afternoon. After Devon entered the house, he made a beeline to his room, excited to play video games. Around 1:30pm, as he played his games, he realized that the house was strangely quiet for a Sunday. Normally, someone would be in the kitchen, watching TV or doing laundry. His mom was an early riser & wasn’t known to be sleeping in.
When Devon got up to investigate, he headed downstairs, in the direction of his mom & step dad’s bedroom & was alarmed to see that they were still sleeping, laying in bed with their maroon comforter pulled over their heads, his mom’s foot sticking out from the bottom. It crossed his mind that they could be ill & had gone back to bed. Devon approached his mom’s side of the bed, tapping her leg & began speaking to her, in hopes of waking Susan; this is when he noticed that her pillow was saturated in what appeared to be blood.
His parents had hosted a party the night before & since it was Halloween, Devon initially thought, for a brief moment, that this could be a prank. As the seconds ticked by & he processed what he was seeing, Devon realized that his parents had actually been murdered. He fled from the home & quickly called his aunt, Lori Mose. Lori immediately called the police & headed to the Liske home. When she spoke with police, she mentioned BJ Liske as a possible suspect, saying, “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.”
When the police arrived to the Liske’s rural home that sits on about 100 acres & searched the home, they discovered that not only had Susan & Bill been murdered, but also Susan’s 23-year-old son Derek Griffin. Derek, like Susan & William, was also found in his bed. A preliminary exam by the coroner determined that the deaths had been a result of either a gunshot or a blunt object; obvious trauma was found to all the victim’s heads. There were no signs of a struggle & it was suspected that they had been murdered as they slept, completely unaware of the danger they were in.
Further examination determined that William had been shot five times in the face & head from a range of one to two feet; he was found lying in a natural sleeping position. Susan was found sprawled awkwardly in bed & it was suspected that she may have been moved; she had been shot three times, also at close range & had also been sexually assaulted.
Devon had ran from the house in such a state of panic, grief & terror that it hadn’t occurred to him to check his brother’s room. Derek’s bedroom door was found locked from the inside; after police kicked the door in, they found him curled up in bed, back to the door, facing the wall. Unlike Susan & William, Derek’s cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head; he had likely died within a few minutes of the first strike. A bloody claw hammer was found in the house & was consistent with his wounds; this weapon, as well as the family’s guns, were seized as evidence & sent to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation for forensic testing.
In a matter of hours, Devon’s life was flipped upside down; his mom, brother & stepfather, gone.
Investigators believed that the .22 murder weapon used on Susan & Bill had been disposed of in the family’s pond after finding muddy footprints on the back deck. After draining the pond & utilizing weapon-sniffing dogs, there was no sign of the gun.
Lori told investigators that she tried calling the house at 7am & 9am after Derek failed to show up for work. She also informed them that the family’s white Ford F-150 pickup truck was missing from the property. At this point, Devon’s stepbrother, BJ, was the number one suspect.
BJ was arrested at a family member’s cabin 170 miles away in Carroll County where BJ & his dad, William had stayed during a deer hunting trip just one week earlier. Bill had taken the week off of work & the two only returned home 24 hours before the murders. Investigators found an uneaten Subway sandwich in the cabin; BJ had arrived less than an hour earlier. Security footage from a Subway restaurant near the cabin showed BJ purchasing the sandwich.
Deputy Michael Balash noticed the white pickup truck that matched the description of the Liske family’s truck. As Deputy Balash monitored the property, he noticed BJ exit the cabin where he stood on the porch, leaning against a post, smoking a cigarette. Deputy Balash approached BJ with his gun drawn & called for backup where he was then arrested.
The cabin was searched by the bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation & the Carroll County Sheriff’s department; the truck & BJ’s clothing were taken into evidence. He was initially charged with only one count of murder because it was enough to hold him until he could be brought to trial in front of a jury where they could determine if he could face additional charges.
As BJ was transferring from the holding cell to a receiving cell, he was told to put on a suicide-prevention smock though he refused. An officer named LeMonte instructed BJ toward the smock & touched his shirt; this prompted BJ to punch & scratch the officer in the face. Despite this assault, additional charges were not brought against him. After another officer arrived & threatened him with a stun gun, BJ complied & wore the smock.
Local authorities were very familiar with BJ after being called to the Liske residence with multiple disturbances involving him. In 2002 when BJ was 16 & already on house arrest from another offense, he threatened to harm himself. BJ attacked officers as they arrived at the house & ended up facing assault charges in juvenile court.
In 2004, BJ forcefully struck Susan Liske in the chest during an argument; two months later, Susan was forced to file a felonious assault charge after BJ struck her in the head with a coffee cup & stole her car. The assault & robbery charges were dropped after BJ was deemed incompitent to stand trial. When Bill & Susan got married in 2001, Susan attempted to establish household rules & expectations but BJ was having none of it. His relationship with his stepmom was continuously strained & since his parent’s divorce, he began skipping school & misbehaving.
After the Liske family was murdered, more disturbing stories began to surface. There was one time that William kicked his then 18-year-old son out of the house after he attacked Susan while she showered. Despite all of the violence & turmoil BJ caused, William filed for guardianship in 2006.
By 2007, BJ had been hospitalized for bipolar schizoaffective disorder & eventually transferred to a group home called Sandusky, for mental health patients. During his stay at Sandusky, BJ had at least three violent encounters with police, one involving his father, William, as he arrived to pick him up from the home.
A family friend, Mark Gradel, recalls many conversations with Bill about his concern about the family’s safety in regards to BJ. Bill often called Mark to help when BJ began causing problems & was becoming physical with Bill. BJ was Bill’s only son & he refused to give up on him & stood firm with his opinion that BJ wouldn’t hurt them, despite Bill himself, receiving multiple physical injuries at the hands of his son. Mark Gradel & other neighbors also suspected that BJ killed & injured several of their pets, including the Gradel’s dog that had been wounded by two .22-caliber bullets.
Bill’s goal was to get BJ the help he needed; he knew that when he was compliant with taking his medication, he did well. Though after a while, BJ would stop taking his medication, believing he no longer needed it; he would start drinking & smoking pot instead.
Bill & BJ returned from their hunting trip on Saturday, October 30 & Gradel joined the Liske family at their home for the Halloween party; he recalls that everyone was happy & having fun. Gradel didn’t see Susan’s son Derek, but that wasn’t unusual because he often made himself scarce when BJ was around; the two did not get along. It was rare that BJ spent the night at the Liske house, but because Susan & William were enjoying alcoholic beverages at the party, they decided to make an exception & allow BJ to spend the night after the party, rather than driving him back to Sandusky when the party ended around midnight.
When investigators searched the house, they noted the made up sofa bed in the living room, the spot they had made for BJ the night before.
Michele Gradel, Mark’s wife, told investigators that she heard what sounded like gunshots at 6:30am on Sunday, October 31st, the morning of the murders. If this is correct, Devon would have been home, unaware that his family had been killed while getting ready for church, speaking with BJ after he had murdered his family. This would also indicate that BJ allowed Devon to leave the house & live, rather than murdering him as well. It’s also possible that the timeline could be off; BJ had asked Devon how long he would be gone, so it’s possible he murdered them after Devon left for church. Phone records show that Derek last spoke with someone at 2:02pm the day before, October 30th.
In November of 2010, BJ was charged with six counts of aggravated murder; two counts for each person killed. Three of the counts were murder with prior calculation & design & three were murder committed in the commision of aggravated robbery. BJ pleaded not guilty.
Two competency evaluations were done & BJ was deemed competent to stand trial. During a pre-trial hearing on August 12, 2011, BJ pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated murder in exchange for removal of a potential death penalty. Before his sentencing, BJ apologized for murdering his family & blamed his actions on Satan & his mental illness.
In September of 2011, BJ was sentenced to three sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole. On March 31, 2015, BJ was found dead in his cell at Ross Correctional Institution in Chillicothe, Ohio from a self-inflicted wound.
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