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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

Pope County woman says she still loved her father despite his dark and sinister crimes

Keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

No greater example of enduring the sins of the father can be found in the River Valley than the tale of a Clarksville hair stylist who proclaims "I'm a person that loves my family and friends, I have a positive attitude and love the Lord" despite her checkered lineage.

Amy Grinder-Harris Stone is the daughter of convicted murderer/serial killer James (J. B.) Grinder who we have profiled previously in the murder of three girls in Pope County in 1976.

Those murders occurred four years before Amy's birth, while her father was still a free man.

Grinder was also convicted of the murder of Julie Helton in Macon County, Missouri in 1999 after undergoing a process known as "Brain Fingerprinting".

"He and my mom had split up when I was very young," said Grinder-Harris Stone. "The only memory I have of him at a young age was when he came by our house with a girlfriend and wanted to take me and buy me a coat when I was about four"

"My mother wouldn't let me go," said Grinder-Harris Stone.

Grinder-Harris Stone would eventually get to meet her father.

She, at the age of fifteen, would see him at an arranged meeting at restaurant/entertainment venue in Newton County known as "The Red Barn".

She later learned he was a prison escapee at the time. She thinks he may have escaped from prison on a theft charge at the time of that meeting.

"He refused to come to Pope County so we met him at the Red Barn," said Grinder-Harris Stone

Flash forward to 1999. Grinder had been considered the primary suspect in the brutal murder case of Helton for fifteen years, but there had never been enough evidence to bring him to trial.

Helton was reported missing in Macon, Missouri in January of 1984. Three days later her body was found near the railroad tracks in Macon. She had been raped, brutally beaten and stabbed in the neck.

Grinder, a wood-cutter who had lived in Arkansas before moving to Macon, was arrested in March 1998 when he was released from prison where he had served time on an unrelated charge.

He reportedly confessed to the murder of Helton, and agreed to submit a new technology called "Brain Printing" where messages related to the crime and pictures of the Helton crime scene and weapon used were flashed on a screen while his brainwaves were being monitored.

The process confirmed his confession, with the results showing "99.9% positive" that Grinder had killed Helton.

On Aug. 11, six days after crime-scene specific messages were flashed before him, Grinder pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 44th Judicial Circuit Court to avoid the death penalty.

He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, and was immediately transported to Arkansas, where he was a suspect in the 1976 Pope County murders of Cynthia Mabry 13, Teresa Williams, 13, and Crystal Donita Parton, 14.

Cynthia Mabry

Teresa and Crystal's remains were found in 1986 on a dead-end road near Brock Cemetery in northern Pope County, Arkansas. They'd been stabbed in the neck.

Cynthia's body has never been found.

He confessed to those murders and died in prison of natural causes just a little over a decade later.

"I remember my mom telling me that a detective had either gone the prison in Missouri to talk to my dad or my dad had requested him to come talk to him and that's when he confessed, " said Grinder-Harris Stone

The only other time Grinder-Harris Stone saw her father in her life was at his sentencing in Pope County.

"I reached out to him and talked to him on the phone after found out I was pregnant," said Grinder-Harris Stone. "He knew I had lost my first baby and, despite everything, we was still my father and deserved to know he had a grandchild."

Grinder-Harris Stone's children are now 22 and 14. She also has two grandchildren.

She also has an adult brother with Downs Syndrome who she visits with online nightly.

"We sing together through video chat...we try to do it every night Monday through Friday," said Grinder-Harris Stone "We might miss a day every now and then, but very rarely, because it's the highlight of our evenings."

In a world where so many people place the blame on their parents and "how they were raised" for their shortcomings, Grinder-Harris Stone celebrates life and the person she has become.

She has some regrets, but life is lived in degrees of sorry...and forgiveness.

"Thing could have been different because, I would of have a father to do father-and-daughter things with," said Grinder-Harris Stone. "He could have taught me about things like fishing and hunting instead of my mom having to teach me those things."

"Most of all I would have experienced the love of a true dad," said Grinder-Harris Stone.

"What he did does not affect the person I am now... do I wish things could have been different? Yes," said Grinder-Harris Stone. "I'm sorry for what my dad did and I have apologized to some of the families already. I told them I wish they could have their family member back and that I could have had my dad in my life until he passed away."

Grinder-Harris Stone said she has had people that knew her dad that said he was a hard worker and a decent person on the surface, but something inside of him just took him to a dark place that resulted in his actions

"Me finding out what he did doesn't change how I feel about him regardless," said Grinder-Harris Stone "He was my dad and I loved him."

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