Prosecutors’ claims that Ronald Fred Gregory withdrew $39,000 from a bank immediately before and after his 9-year-old granddaughter was killed is proof that the shooting was premeditated, according to the girl’s other grandfather.
Prosecutors allege that Ronald Fred Gregory, 67, took out $25,000 in cash from his credit union the day before the March 21 killings, then took out a cashiers check worth $14,000 after he shot his wheelchair-bound wife, Barbara, then killed his granddaughter, Mia Rodgers, according to court documents. Only after grabbing the money and shooting both people did Gregory call 911.
“He took out the money – that shows he was thinking about it,” said Paul Rodgers, Mia Rodgers’ maternal grandfather who was in the middle of a custody battle with the Gregorys over Mia at the time of the killings. “He thought it all out.”
Gregory admitted shooting Mia and his wife, Barbara, before shooting himself in the chest, according to a police incident report. His court-appointed lawyers have questioned Gregory’s mental state both now and at the time of the shootings. He remains under suicide watch in the York County jail.
Rodgers, after meeting with prosecutors on Wednesday, said he is even more supportive of any potential decision to seek the death penalty against Gregory.
“At the very least they should give him life in prison, but if they go for the electric chair, I would support that,” Rodgers said. “There doesn’t seem to be any doubt now that he knew what he was doing when he killed my granddaughter.”
Under South Carolina law, prosecutors can seek the death penalty if they can prove one of several specific circumstances accompanied a murder. Among the circumstances are multiple murder victims or the killing of a child under 10.
Experts have said that prosecutors will have to look at whether the suicide attempt was real or if Gregeory shot himself to try to avoid prosecution. Prosecutors “almost assuredly” will look at the money withdrawals as “evidence of mental competency” at the time of the crimes, said Kenneth Gaines, a criminal law professor at the University of South Carolina.
“The prosecution will likely try to prove that anything this guy did that shows a conscious decision so close in time to the actual crimes” proves he was sane when the victims were murdered, Gaines said.
Court documents show that no court officials involved in Mia Rodgers’ custody case had any concerns about Ronald Gregory’s mental state. On Feb. 27, a court-appointed guardian ad litem filed a report in the custody case saying she saw “no concerns” with Ronald Gregory. More, the Family Court judge who granted Gregory and his son temporary custody in late 2013 wrote that “no evidence” was submitted that Ronald Gregory was unfit to have custody.
Mia’s mother died in November 2013 from leukemia. Her birth father, Kevin Gregory, was involved along with with his parents in the custody lawsuit over Mia.
Ronald Gregory went to school events with Mia including a strawberry picking and a visit to a Christmas Tree Farm in Clover, court documents submitted by Ronald and Barbara Gregory claim.
“We hope you can see how much we love Mia and want to keep her,” Ronald Gregory and his wife wrote in court documents. “She deserves to be with a family that loves her.”
The Gregorys also wrote: “Because we kept her so much, she feels like our child. We tried to teach her right and wrong.”
Neighbors and others close to Ronald Gregory have said that he was a loving person and the allegations of double murder shocked them.
Yet Nina Rodgers, Mia’s maternal grandmother, said that Ronald Gregory deserves whatever punishment he gets.
“He killed a defenseless child,” Nina Rodgers said. “He gave her no chance to have a life.”