Man convicted in 1986 killing of Lisa Holstead in Green Bay

Plea agreement reached in cold case dating back to 1986
Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 11:19 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A man has reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in the 1986 killing of a woman in Green Bay.

Lou Griffin, 67, appeared in Brown County Court Friday to enter a plea in the death of Lisa Holstead. The case was once considered the longest-unsolved murder in Green Bay.

On Friday, Griffin pleaded “no contest” to a charge of Homicide by Reckless Conduct. The court found him guilty.

Griffin was originally charged with 1st Degree Intentional Homicide, a higher class of felony than the reckless conduct charge.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 27.

In August of 1986, Lisa Holstead was 22 years old when she was found dead in a marshy section of the Ken Euers Nature Area. Holstead had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

In 2020, police announced the arrest of Lou A. Griffin for Lisa’s killing.

Lisa Holstead
Lisa Holstead(WBAY)

Investigators found Griffin through genetic genealogy.

Green Bay Police Detective David Graf reached out to a company that does DNA tests for forensic genetic genealogy, which could tell them not only more about their suspect but also the killer’s possible relatives. The tests are similar to the ones families take to track their heritage, and would give police a different pool of DNA to compare the evidence.

Police sent the suspect’s DNA to a lab for analysis and came back with a lot of information about the man’s heritage, which sent them on a new path to finding the suspect.

“We were able to identify some relatives - not real close relatives, but close enough that... it’s a lot of work doing the background and basically do a family tree in reverse,” said Graf.

Using that information, police found groups of people through databases and websites who might be relatives. They found a group of people who live in other states, which eventually led them to relatives in Wisconsin, and ultimately to a family member who lived in Green Bay in 1986.

“I can tell you there’s probably like 10-15 trees that we started that we were able to identify as potential relatives. In this case, we were able to find a group of people that lived in Wisconsin and doing more research on them, we came up with Mr. Griffin,” said Detective Graf. “What brought our attention to Mr. Griffin was his past history, he had just gotten out of prison for sexual assault and moved up to Green Bay about a month before.”

At some point, Griffin moved to Racine. Green Bay police worked with Racine County authorities, as well as the FBI and DCI. Griffin was put under surveillance. DNA was collected from discarded cigarette and beer cans and was a match to the murder evidence.

Graf said Griffin was cooperative. He voluntarily went to the sheriff’s office and talked with investigators for a few hours. Prosecutors say Griffin eventually told police he might have had sex with Holstead but denied killing her. He remembered he was high on cocaine and drinking alcohol that night.