BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Battle Creek police say they believe they found the human remains of a woman who was reported missing in 2020.
The Battle Creek Police Department says search crews found the reamins Thursday afternoon on Battle Creek’s north side, near the intersection of Waubascon Road and Limit Street.
The search comes after the man accused of killing his girlfriend pleaded no contest to second-degree murder, Calhoun County Prosecutor David Gilbert confirmed to FOX 17.
Derek Horton was suspected of killing Amber Griffin and burying her body in 2020.
As part of the plea agreement, the open murder charge was dropped, Gilbert confirms. He also says Horton agreed to lead investigators to Griffin’s body.
On Wednesday, investigators say they brought Derek Horton out to the area. He pointed out specific areas of interest.
"There were a few things that had changed since the last time that he saw it, so he had identified a couple of areas," said Battle Creek Police Department Lieutenant Joel Case.
Investigators confirmed they sectioned off multiple areas, noting the area may have changed slightly in the last two years.
"That was the most challenging thing is the surface of the ground, you couldn’t tell anything apart. You would think you could go up and identify an area really easy but that was not the case at all. Mainly for the leaves and stuff that was on top of the ground, you couldn’t just look at the spot and determine that that was an area that had been searched," said Battle Creek Police Department Lieutenant Joel Case.
A mini-excavator was brought in to dig those areas out. Michigan State Police cadaver dogs also helped with the search.
Around 1:45 p.m. on Thursday, they found the human remains.
"We do believe those to likely be Amber Griffin’s body. Again, due to the fact that she is decomposed at this point and it’s just bones, we still have to do some further testing to confirm that it is her. It was in a spot, the likely spot that he had buried her," said Lt. Case.
Investigators say they were looking in the same area investigators searched back in June 2020 where pants with Griffin's blood on them and a receipt were found.
It was a slow process, but BCPD says they wanted to respect the body.
"I would estimate that the top portion of it was three feet," said Lt. Case. It is still being worked on, but it was a pretty significant depth that she was buried. We were trying to be delicate in using a piece of heavy equipment to bring back layers at a time. We don’t want to damage anything."
BCPD says the location searched on Thursday is less than a mile from the home she was reportedly last seen at.
FOX 17 spoke with Amber Griffin’s mom on Wednesday. She says she searched that area several times in the past. On Thursday, she declined an interview following the news.
Calhoun County Prosecuting Attorney David E. Gilbert says while they still have to get a positive ID from the remains, they are currently acknowledging that Horton did do as he promised.
"We’re under the impression that he did lead us to this spot which ultimately recovered her, so as far as that goes, we are all under the impression that he fulfilled his side of the plea bargain," said Lt. Case. "This is one of the two end results that we were looking for. One was a successful prosecution with him going to prison and the second was returning the human remains to a family so they can have a proper burial for their mother," said Lt. Case.
Once a positive ID is given, a sentencing date will be set for Derek Horton. He could face 15 to 25 years.