So I received a reply from the entomologist and he linked me to these and these. I kind of narrowed it down to something like this but bigger.
His reply was
Well, unfortunately, this is just the kind of "generic" insect that usually remains a mystery. I can just about guarantee that it merely 'strayed' into your home in error, though. You might try looking at images of: Darkling beetles (family Tenebrionidae, lots and lots of species, with great diversity in shapes and colors, so look carefully) Leaf beetles (family Chrysomelidae, especially genus Timarcha, but lot and lots and LOTS of species). A good website to start with is: http://www.bugguide.net or you could also try my book, the "Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America." I know that sounds self-serving, but seriously, it is a good basic guide that covers a lot of ground, with lots of images. The firm grip you mention leads me to think of leaf beetles in particular, as they need to keep a firm grip on leaves and twigs so they don't get blown off in the wind, or washed away by rain:-) Feel free to get back to me if you can give me more to go on, and we can keep trying. Good luck! Eric R. Eaton
Guess who is going to be super super super super super careful when bringing in laundry from outside.
I am just glad it wasn't something crazy and happy I didn't kill it out of fear.