LAPEER, MI — On November 16, 2011, Andrea Eilber, age 20, was found dead in the basement of her aunt’s home from gunshot wound to her head. Since 2015, Keith Carl “KC” Grondin, Eilber’s 19-year-old boyfriend, has been serving life in prison for her murder.
However, Grondin’s conviction has raised so many questions — many of which are explored on the “Convicted by a Hair” episode of the ID series Reasonable Doubt — that the Michigan Court of Appeals has now ordered a new trial.
KC Grondin and Andrea Eilber met while working at the local Kroger supermarket. They began dating in May 2011.
Friends of each described them as coming off smitten with one another to the point of being, as many young couples are, almost annoyingly “lovey dovey.” It was Grondin’s first-ever romantic relationship.
On the night Eilber died, she had been housesitting for her aunt, and she invited Grondin to come over with movies for them to watch together.
Grondin said he arrived at the scheduled time and was surprised to see Eilber’s car not parked in the driveway. He then says he knocked on the door, and the house seemed empty.
An hour later, he got a text from Eilber’s phone telling him she had to cancel and they could talk tomorrow. Grondin said such a move seemed completely unlike his girlfriend.
The message spun him off into fears that she may be breaking up with him, prompting the teenage engineering student to go home, hole up in his bedroom, and cry.
After no one saw or heard from Eilber the next day, her father organized a search party. That’s when her body turned up. Naturally, detectives brought Grondin in for questioning.
A video of the interrogation depicts a detective repeatedly insisting that Grondin is guilty. Visibly upset, Grondin denies any involvement.
Their back-and-forth continues until the cop says that, in exchange for penning one statement, the process will end immediately and Grondin will be able to go home. So Grondin wrote down that he entered the house, saw Eilber’s body, assumed she committed suicide, and moved objects in the room to make it look like she hadn’t harmed herself.
It’s a strongly incriminating statement, which police then immediately cited while arresting Grondin for murder.
Grondin did not have a lawyer present during the interrogation. In fact, it later came to light that detectives did not inform Grondin that an attorney was actually trying to contact him while the interviews were being conducted.
A judge later ruled that the police had violated Bender’s Rule, which states that a suspect must be told when an attorney has been retained. As a result, Grondin’s statement was initially ruled inadmissible, but was later reinstated by the Michigan Supreme Court.
One crucial piece of evidence was a convenience-store surveillance video.Shortly after Eilber was killed, a young man in a sweatshirt with the hood pulled up over his face used her stolen ATM card to withdraw $600 from her account.
Prosecutors said that Grondin was the man on the tape, and his motive for murder was that $600. One expert video analyst, however, says he has determined the man on the tape stands 6-foot-1, while Grondin is only 5-foot-10.
The most convincing bit of evidence, overall, was a bloody hair on Grondin’s sweatpants found at the crime scene.
Police grabbed the garment out of a hamper full of dirty laundry, leading to defense claims that the evidence was tainted.
Regardless, the jury believed they had enough to convict after a three-week trial and, in 2015, KC Grondin got sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
On June 13, 2018, however, the tables turned. The Michigan Court of Appeals, citing that the jury may have ruled erroneously based on the conditions of the verdict available to them, ordered a new trial for Grondin.
Grondin’s friends, family, and even outsiders interested in justice have long campaigned for this moment. Their efforts, in fact, led to retired homicide detective Chris Anderson and criminal defense attorney Fatima Silva of Reasonable Doubt reexamining the case.
Watch the Convicted by a Hair episode of Investigation Discovery’s Reasonable Doubt on ID GO now!
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Main photo: KC Grondin [Michigan Department of Corrections]