BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — The Battle Creek man charged with killing his girlfriend and hiding her body in a wooded area has been sentenced.
Derek Horton, 27, led investigators to the body of Amber Griffin back in March as part of a plea agreement. On Monday, May 9, he was sentenced to prison for 15 to 30 years.
As part of the agreement, he pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and the open murder charge was dropped.
Horton was charged on June 29, 2020.
"This is not something that I set out to do that day," said Derek Horton, ahead of sentencing in a Calhoun County Court. "I am very sorry for my actions. I am sorry for what I took from you guys. What I took from you is something you could never get back, a precious life, someone that I love, someone that I know you guys love. I am really lost for words. There is not enough times I could say sorry," he said.
Judge John Hallacy called Horton's apology insincere, saying love and murder don't go hand-in-hand.
Amber's mom Karman Griffin also made a statement before the judge, from herself as well as Amber's two children.
"I’m here for my daughter, my only child Amber. He took away the only person that meant anything to me. Waking up in fear and anxiety, not being able to see her again. I can never hold her, never be apart of her life anymore. The only thing I have left is memories and pictures," said Amber Griffin's mother Karman Griffin.
Griffin asked the judge for the maximum penalty.
"This has been more than a murder. It is pure daily torture both mentally and physically for everyone in our family, especially to me and her children. She was abused six years by this person. She never got the chance to enjoy life," said Griffin.
Investigators said Horton and Griffin's mother were the two who reported her missing on June 24. The two said that she hadn't been seen since late in the day on June 22, and that Horton said he last saw her walk out of their home on midnight that night.
Investigators said Horton's side of the story had a number of inconsistencies, and he was witnessed purchasing a shovel on June 23.
Based on the evidence collected, police believed Horton buried Griffin's body. In March 2022, during the trial for Griffin's death, Horton agreed to show police where he hid her body. Horton led investigators to a wooded area on Battle Creek’s north side, near the intersection of Waubascon Road and Limit Street, less than 1 mile from where Griffin was last seen.
Crews spent parts of two days excavating the area before finding her remains.
A medical examiner at Western Michigan University School of Medicine positively identified Griffin using medical records and evidence of old injuries and medical procedures.
"It was a sad event for everybody involved. It was a sad event for obviously the victim’s family, a sad event for my client and his family. I think at the point, my guy accepted the deal, he did the best he could to help the family bring closure to this," said Derek Horton's attorney Donald Sappanos.
The judge said without the agreement, he would have had no hesitation to sentence Horton to life in prison.
Instead though, he followed through with the agreement and sentenced him 15 to 30 years in prison.
"You decided you were going to show the family where her body was, and ultimately it was found after some period of time. I have winded in my own mind as to whether or not that was a good thing or not because you got to use your own secret to your own benefit," said Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge John Hallacy.
Both Horton's and Griffin's families declined comment following sentencing.