Details of Disappearance
Heckel was last seen leaving her office at the International Paper Company in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania on July 15, 1991. She was employed with the company as a management secretary.
Heckel called her two children just before lunch that days and said she was going to run some errands and would eat her lunch alone. At the start of her lunch break she drove her car out of the parking lot and never returned. Her father reported her missing the next day.
Heckel wasn't carrying any money or personal belongings at the time of her disappearance, and her financial accounts have been used since she went missing. Her silver 1990 Ford Festiva was found near the Lock Haven Hospital at 10:30 p.m. on July 17, two days after she vanished. The car was parked in third gear with the emergency brake applied, and the keys were missing. There was no evidence of her whereabouts at the scene.
Heckel's husband of eighteen years was in the National Guard and was away from home on a two-week training exercise when his wife disappeared, so he was quickly ruled out as a suspect in her case. Authorities focused on another individual, Loyd Groves, one of Heckel's coworkers.
Shortly before her disappearance, Heckel told a friend she was having an affair with Groves, who was also married. Heckel allegedly said she wanted to end their relationship but Groves did not. She said she was anxious and fearful of him and accused him of stalking her and sending her lewd messages. On the morning of the day she disappeared, she had a noisy fight with Groves and he was witnessed chasing her through the paper plant.
Groves's van was seen leaving the International Paper Company at around the same time as Heckel's car. He claimed to not remember where he was at the time of her disappearance, and allegedly attempted to manufacture an alibi. He seemed anxious and paranoid in the aftermath of Heckel's disappearance and repeatedly asked people whether the police thought he was involved, and he asked a friend to take care of his wife and children in case he got arrested. He did not, however, express concern for Heckel's welfare.
Type A human blood traces were found on Groves's van's upholstery, the middle seat and the interior light; DNA testing later determined the blood was Heckel's. Police also found a box of .25 caliber ammunition, a hunting knife, a partially used roll of duct tape and two duffel bags in the van, and a .25 caliber pistol in his desk inside the paper plant.
In January 2015, Groves was charged with her murder. He was tried in 2018; the prosecution suggested he wanted to have Heckel "removed" because she had become a "toxic" presence in his life. In December, after two days of deliberation, the jury acquitted him of first-degree murder but convicted him of the lesser charge of third-degree murder.
Groves's attorney asked for him to be sentenced to the minimum term of four to ten years, but he was sentenced to ten to twenty years in prison, which was the maximum sentence allowed for third-degree murder in 1991. At sentencing, the judge called Groves's crime "horrendous" and said he would have sentenced him to double the time if it was allowed. Groves will receive credit for the four years he was in jail awaiting trial.
Heckel was declared legally dead on July 15, 1998, seven years to the day after her disappearance. She's described as a reliable employee and a devoted parent who would not have abandoned her son and daughter. Her children are now grown and live outside the area.
Foul play is suspected in case due to the circumstances involved.