Michael Shane Worthington spent 19 years in custody after the burglary, rape and murder of 24-year-old Melinda Griffin of Lake St. Louis. He was sentenced to death after confessing to those crimes, and his execution was carried out early Wednesday morning at the prison in Bonne Terre.
Worthington spent much of those 19 years attempting to cast doubt on his guilt. He claimed that his attorney at the time of the trial convinced him to plead guilty, and that he actually had no memory of the crimes due to drug and alcohol use that night. He also suggested that two other men had likely committed the murder as part of a burglary.
“There’s never been a doubt in my mind that Michael Worthington murdered Mindy Griffin,” says Lake St. Louis Police Department Chief Mike Force.
Force witnessed the execution, having worked Griffin’s case.
“19 years is a long time, and certainly across those 19 years you’d have plenty of time to imagine this story or that story or the other story,” says Force. “I think Mr. Worthington did a good job of imagining those. They changed constantly.”
Retired Lake Saint Louis Police detective Don Bolen agrees. He doesn’t recall that Worthington ever apologized for the crimes against Griffin.
“The only thing he was sorry about was being caught and being tried, and that he confessed,” says Bolen.
Both men have worked numerous cases including other murders, but felt the need to see this case through to the end. Bolen says Griffin was a vibrant person that was instantly liked by anyone who met her.
“I never met her, but I came to know her through other folks,” says Bolen. “She’s a wonderful person.”
Force says it was the people involved in the case that made it stick out.
“This is a wonderful family, a loving family. Mindy Griffin was an inspirational young lady who was doing great things in her life. She was young, beautiful, just on the brink of flowering in life. She was finishing up school, she was a volunteer for a lot of good causes – just a good person,” says Force. “To see that life wasted that way and the impact that it’s had on this family is a horrible thing.”
Chief Force and Detective Bolen (ret.) discuss the impact the Griffin case had on them:
Both men say the Department’s major case squad deserves recognition for its role in the case.
“They had a lot of feet on the ground very quickly. I think we had him in custody in a day and a half,” says Force.
Griffin was attacked in her own condominium. Force is asked whether such cases should leave people wondering if they are safe anywhere.
“I talk to citizens groups all the time,” says Force. “I try to impress upon them the importance of never living in fear, but always living with awareness. I think if we make ourselves just a little more aware, I think we become safer.”
“In Mindy’s case I don’t think she could have done anything differently,” says Bolen. “Michael forced his way into her house, he hid in the closet. She had no reason to suspect anything was going on, anything was wrong … it’s just sad.”
Griffin’s family say there was no doubt of Worthington’s guilt from his first day at the Lake Saint Louis Police Department. They invited Force and Bolen to be among the witnesses to Worthington’s execution, along with members of the prosecution team and victims’ advocates, who they say helped the family deal with her death and the two decades that have followed.