Father of murdered Rock Hill boy: The pain of losing a child to gunfire never heals

March 26, 2014 

— Nobody has to tell Joe Helms what the Rodgers family has been going through the past several days after the shooting death of 9-year-old Mia Rodgers. He has dealt with the same never-ending pain for seven years, one month and 10 days.

Police say Mia was shot and killed by her paternal grandfather, Ronald Fred Gregory, on Friday. Gregory is also accused of killing his wife, Barbara, before shooting himself twice. They were killed during a custody dispute over Mia between both sets of grandparents. Kevin Gregory, Mia’s father, joined his parents in the custody fight.

On Feb. 15, 2007, Joe Helms’ wife, Sandra Sue Glover, picked up their 7-year-old son, Jesse, at school. She had been convicted earlier that day of domestic violence against Joe Helms.

Glover went home to Joe Helms’ house, picked up a pistol, and shot little Jesse dead. Then Glover turned the gun on herself.

Unlike Ronald Fred Gregory, who survived his suicide attempt and is facing two counts of murder, Glover died when she shot herself.

Some of the same sheriff’s office deputies who handled the death in 2007 responded Friday. Those cops again found a child dead, apparently at the hands of an adult who was supposed to love and cherish and care for them.

“There just isn’t any reason in the world for anybody to kill a child,” Helms said. “Kids got their whole lives ahead of them. Whatever the problem is, shooting a precious little child and killing them doesn’t solve a damn thing. It is sick and it is wrong.”

Nina Rodgers, the maternal grandmother, called Ronald Gregory “a monster” for killing Mia, who had visited a doctor the day before she died.

“To kill a sick child; how can a human being do such a thing?” Nina Rodgers asked.

Paul Rodgers, the maternal grandfather, said Ronald Gregory was “too obsessed” with Mia. Paul Rodgers wants answers from police about what triggered Ronald Gregory to kill Mia. The ongoing custody fight could be a reason. The Rodgers had weekend visitation rights but wanted to raise Mia, whose mother died last year.

At the Gregory home on Idlewild Road in Rock Hill, where Barbara Gregory and Mia were killed, the girl’s bicycle remains at the edge of the carport. In 2007, when Jesse Helms was killed, his little dirt bike was right by the door.

Joe Helms doesn’t want to hear any reasons for why Ronald Gregory would kill Mia.

“There isn’t a reason in the world for what happened, and I know that those other people who loved that little girl don’t want to hear a a bunch of nonsense about why this guy did it,” Joe Helms said. “There is no reason.”

Jimmie Helms, Joe’s brother, also has spent the past several days thinking about Jesse’s death after reading about Mia’s killing. Like Joe, Jimmie Helms said what Ronald Gregory is accused of doing is unforgivable. Prosecutors could seek the death penalty against Gregory when he is released from the hospital, and Jimmie Helms said that just might fit the crime.

“My brother’s son was killed just like this; and just like this little girl, Mia, Jesse never got a chance to live his life,” Jimmie Helms said.

Joe Helms said he often goes to his son’s grave, with family sometimes and other times by himself. He looks at the marker with the car of Jesse’s favorite Nascar driver, Jimmie Johnson, on it. He closes his eyes and sees a kid who never got a chance because somebody who claimed to want to raise a child, who claimed to love, decided that the only way out was to pick up a gun and kill the child so that someone else could not love him.

“My heart is broken for that little girl,” said Joe Helms. “My heart hurts for that family that wanted to raise her and keep her safe and love her. And I can say, because I know, your heart when it breaks like this, it don’t ever get fixed.”

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065

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