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Superior Police Capt. Chad LaLor (right) listens to production staff members from "Crime Town, USA" talk about a shot outside Les's Grocery in Superior before filming on Tuesday evening. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Old Superior murders get new look thanks to Doscovery Channel

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For five hours Tuesday, Les's Grocery was once again a murder scene.

Police cars parked outside and evidence technicians searched for clues inside the Billings Park store.

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The activity was caught on tape, with cameras rolling into the night, as Story House Productions visited Superior this week to tape two segments of a new series, "Crime Town, USA," for the Investigation Discovery Channel. Airing dates have not been scheduled.

One focuses on the 1986 murder of Lynnea Gran at Les's Grocery. Although her son, Rodger Gran, was a suspect from the start, it took nearly 20 years to gain a conviction for second-degree murder in connection with her brutal death.

The other segment walks through the steps of the Alejandro Rivera case, which involved drugs, murder and the firebombing of Douglas County District Attorney Daniel Blank's home in 2000. The self-proclaimed leader of the Imperial Gangsters masterminded the attempted hit when Blank was preparing for Rivera's murder trial.

"You think these things can't happen in small-town America," said series producer Patrick Rogers, but they do.

Superior Police Chief Floyd Peters said the call from the production company came "out of the blue."

"They sought us out," he said.

In both cases, Rogers said, great police work made the difference.

"One even took 19 years to solve and they never gave up and they never gave in," he said.

Superior Police Capt. Chad La Lor is the primary liaison for the production company. The job has taken a bite out of his schedule, left him searching for face powder and led to at least one instance of juggling three conversations simultaneously.

"It is a bit time consuming, but in the grand scheme of things we believe that the stories being told are good for the community and the department," La Lor said.

It shows that the department takes its responsibilities seriously and, in the case of long-unsolved murders, "we don't forget about them," La Lor said.

Blank, who was slated for an interview, said the filming left him with mixed emotions. While he was pursuing murder charges against Rivera, two men -- one of them a Superior High School wrestling coach -- firebombed his house.

The story is full of twists and turns, originating as a drug investigation that led to an in-jail interview between Rivera and La Lor. That led to the discovery of the homicide of Carl Peterson and, ultimately, a Molotov cocktail being thrown into the living room window of Blank's home in the early morning hours of Feb. 2, 2000.

The act was meant to dissuade police and prosecutors from pursuing Rivera's case, La Lor said, but the opposite occurred.

"They worked their tails off," Blank said. "They took it as an attack on the system."

The entire community rose up in support of the district attorney.

"When this animal Rivera is making threats and firebombing attacks, townspeople put signs in the yard saying 'Dan Blank lives here,' " Rogers said. "That's something you don't see every day, and we're in the 'something you don't see every day' business."

The camera crew filmed as many scenes on location as possible to give it a Superior flavor.

"It's our intent to make sure this show has Superior all up and down it," field producer Brendan Goeckel said, from the street corners to the city blocks to the faces of passersby.

One passerby at Les's told La Lor he was concerned that Superior would be the focus of "muckraking." That's not how the police captain sees it.

"I believe it's showing the viewers that our department and our community take these crimes seriously," he said. "No community is immune from violent crime. ... The true measure of the community's character is how they respond and recover from those crimes."

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