Victim: Sandra Nestle, 32
Age at time of murder: 17 & eight months
Crime date: June 21, 1983
Crime location: Jasper Township, Michigan
Crimes: Rape & murder
Murder method: Choking and drowning
Sentence: Life without parole (LWOP)
Summary of the crime
Granger stalked Sandra as she jogged, attacked her, choked her unconscious, raped her, and left her to drown in a ditch.
On June 21, 1983, 32-year-old Sandra was spotted by 17-year-old Brian Granger while she was out jogging. Granger, who was four months away from turning 18, followed her on a bike. He attacked the mother of three in an isolated area in Jasper Township, Michigan, choked her unconscious, stripped her of her clothing, and raped her. Granger left Sandra face-down in a partially filled drainage ditch, covered her with vegetation, and left. Sandra died of drowning.
11. Brian Granger from Michigan
Brian Granger had a juvenile adjudication for a criminal sexual assault on a seven-year-old in 1981. He was sent to the Boysville Detention Center and then the Parmenter House. Less than a weak after release, he attacked and murdered Sandra Nestle as she jogged. He choked her unconscious, stripped her naked, and raped her. He left Sandra face-down in a partially filled drainage ditch, covered her with vegetation, and left. Sandra drowned.
Resentencing consideration mandated by state, federal laws
Mitchell Kukulka for The Midland Daily News
May 6, 2020
On Tuesday, a Midland County judge issued a decision to uphold the original 1984 sentencing of a Midland County man charged with first-degree felony murder.
Judge Stephen P. Carras of the Midland County Circuit Court issued a 39- page decision upholding the original sentence of life without parole for Brian Granger, who was originally sentenced to life without parole — the mandatory adult sentence for first-degree felony murder — by Judge Tyrone Gillespie in January of 1984.
The resentencing consideration was mandated by recent United States and Michigan Supreme Court decisions, as well as Michigan legislation, related to the mandatory sentencing of life without parole for offenders less than 18 years old — Granger was 17 years, 8 months old at the time he committed murder.
Granger, 54, is currently being held in the Earnest C. Brooks Correctional Facility in Muskegon.
Granger was originally convicted of felony murder — an intentional killing during the course of a forcible sexual assault — in December of 1983.
The evidence presented at trial indicated that after the victim, Sandra Nestle, a 32-year-old mother of three, went out for an evening jog on June 21, 1983, Granger began to follow her on his bicycle.
After waiting until Nestle was in a very isolated area on Shepherd Road in Jasper Township, he attacked her, strangled her into unconsciousness, removed her clothing and sexually assaulted her. He then left her face down in a partially filled drainage ditch — where she ultimately drowned — covered her body with vegetation and went back home to clean up and eventually go to bed.
When she did not return home that evening, Nestle’s family began a desperate search for her. With the help of the Midland County Sheriff’s Office and the Michigan State Police and their canine officer, her body was recovered the following day. On June 23, 1983, after witnesses had described a suspect and bicycle similar to Granger, and had reported seeing him following Nestle, Granger was arrested for her murder.
During a police interview, Granger eventually admitted that he had made contact with Nestle while out on Shepherd Road the evening she disappeared, but claimed he just wanted to speak with her. When he rode up next to her, Granger claimed Nestle scratched his arm and pushed him off his bike, and then began to scream. Granger said that he was then angry and scared, so he covered her mouth until he thought he accidentally killed her.
Granger further claimed that only once he thought she was dead, he decided to remove her clothing and have sex with her, but he changed his mind before he sexually assaulted her because a car drove by and he remembered that was how he got into trouble before.
Judge Gillespie found that Granger’s explanation of the case was not credible, and that Nestle was intentionally killed during the sexual or attempted sexual assault.
After Granger was convicted at trial and sentenced by Judge Gillespie, his conviction and sentence were upheld during numerous appeals and attempts to commute the sentence.
During a sentencing review hearing before Judge Carras — held in part on Feb. 2, 2019 and completed on July 15-17, 2019 — the court heard from a number of witnesses, including prison officials, the defendant’s and victim’s family members, a brain development specialist, a psychologist, as well as some of the original police officers and the original trial prosecutor, Norman Donker.
In his decision, Carras noted that both court officials and the examining psychologist back in 1983 had noted that Granger seemed to be more mature than a typical 17-to 18-year-old. Further, Carras found that Granger’s past criminal history — including juvenile adjudications for indecent exposure and a criminal sexual assault on a 7-year-old victim in 1981, for which he was placed at Boysville Detention Center and then Parmenter House before being released just five or six days before the murder of Sandra Nestle — showed a youth who continued to escalate his criminal behavior, whose social judgment was intact in that he knew right from wrong, was able to control his behavior, but still had never admitted and accepted full responsibility for his acts.
“As Judge Gillespie said at the defendant’s sentencing in 1984, ‘There comes a time when society has to say enough, you forfeit your right to live in society,’” Carras said in his decision, despite noting Granger had done well in the prison-controlled setting. “In consideration of all the evidence, testimony and exhibits thus submitted for consideration under the Miller factors, this court finds that the factors do not mitigate the crimes committed and do not reflect the transient immaturity of youth. Therefore, life without the possibility of parole was the just and proportionate sentence in 1984 and remains so today.”
Midland County Prosecutor J. Dee Brooks said his department is confident Carras took a great deal of time and effort to decide a very difficult matter.
“I am very grateful for the effort and support of my office, the Michigan State Police, the Michigan Department of Corrections and the Midland County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the victim’s family, in helping us to obtain what I believe continues to be a just result in the case,” Brooks said.