Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Stephen Grant and Jennifer Kukla -- exchanged notes hidden beneath lunch trays

Wife-killer Grant sent racy notes to mom who killed two kids

Two of Macomb County's most notorious killers -- Stephen Grant and Jennifer Kukla -- exchanged notes hidden beneath lunch trays during their overlapping time at the Macomb County Jail, the Free Press has learned.

In the notes, Grant, who is awaiting sentencing for strangling and dismembering his wife, flirts with the convicted child killer, gloats about his national notoriety and says he wishes the two could meet privately -- a suggestion punctuated with a smiley face.

"I still laugh when I remember your one note," Grant wrote in a note dated Oct. 1. "You asked 'are you scared of me?' (LOL). You are too nice to be scared of. I just wish we could arrange a rendezvous in the closet one of these days. (Smiley face.)"

The short letters were obtained Monday by the Free Press and its reporting partner, WDIV-TV Local 4. The Macomb County Prosecutor's Office is releasing the notes to the news media today. Come back to freep.com through the day to read more of them.

In the notes, which were sent back and forth over a span of several months, at least from June to October, Grant, 38, tells Kukla, 31, he started an antidepressant for anxiety and he updates her on his criminal case:

"Right now, I'm waiting to find out if they are going to admit my confession. If it stays in, I'm (expletive). If not, I might have a chance at something less than 1st."

That nearly four-hour confession was admitted and played in full for a jury during Grant's December trial. He was convicted of second-degree murder, not first-degree.

Kukla was convicted of killing daughters Alexandra, 8, and Ashley, 5. Her guilty verdict came with the caveat that she was mentally ill. She chased her girls down with a kitchen knife inside their Macomb Township trailer because, she told investigators, voices told her to do that. She stabbed both girls repeatedly in the throats.

In the notes, Grant offers sympathy: "I had no idea they were pushing 1st degree on you," he wrote. "From what I had read, I thought you had just lost it. Sorry about that."

Grant told Kukla that his celebrity insulates him from being mistreated in jail -- "I am the sheriff's re-election priority" and "if I have a black eye it will be on CNN."

Kukla turned the notes over to authorities in November, just as jury selection was beginning in Grant's trial. In a Nov. 29 interview with Macomb County Sheriff's Detectives Mark Grammatico and Jason Abro, she said she first wrote Grant pretending her name was Sarah because "everybody on our side wanted to find out what he would say about his crime or whatnot. We'd pass notes underneath the doorways and on the food court," she said.

On occasion, she ran into Grant when the two would get supplies from a closet -- which he twice references in his notes as good places to meet up.

Grant also wrote other women, including Crystal Conklin, a 27-year-old Warren woman charged with fatally beating her 2-year-old son, Sean Sowards.

In the notes, Grant told Kukla he didn't know Conklin but had heard she'd be on CNN. Soon after, he wrote to Conklin.

In one note to Conklin, he said he heard Conklin was put on lockdown and asked if she'd been "a naughty girl? (Smiley face.)"

Grant often wrote of missing his children -- he offered condolences to both Conklin and Kukla for the loss of theirs -- and he once wrote that he missed his wife, Tara, too: "She, for the last 13 years, has been the one I went to with my problems and now I don't have that person to ask for advice. (Sad face.)"

Grant repeatedly had mentioned to keep the missives private, but Kukla told investigators she'd given the notes to her father for safekeeping. At times, she said, the content made her uncomfortable enough that she considered turning them in to authorities. She handed them over when investigators told her that they heard rumors the two had corresponded.

Overall, she told detectives, she wasn't impressed with the wife killer.

"I hope he goes away for a long time," she said.