April 28, 2014

Suspect in Rock Hill killings of granddaughter, wife to represent himself in court

Ronald Fred Gregory, the Rock Hill grandfather accused of shooting his wife and their granddaughter to death, could face the death penalty, but he will not hire a lawyer after he lost access to a public defender because he has more than a half-million dollars in a retirement account.

The Rock Hill grandfather accused of killing his 9-year-old granddaughter and his wife in March plans to represent himself in what could be a death penalty trial, court documents show.

“I have no present plans to retain the services of a criminal attorney and am representing myself,” Ronald Gregory wrote in a letter to prosecutors filed with the York County Clerk of Court.

Gregory, 67, who remains jailed without bond, spent six days in the hospital after shooting himself twice in the chest. He is charged with the killings of his invalid wife, Barbara Gregory, 71, and their granddaughter, Mia Rodgers.

After Gregory’s arrest, a magistrate appointed a public defender to represent him. Sixteenth Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett challenged whether Gregory should have a taxpayer-funded defense lawyer because he has more than a half-million dollars in the bank.

A Circuit Court judge ruled last week that Gregory does not qualify for a public defender in a case that could be York County’s first death penalty trial in more than a decade.

Because Mia Rodgers was under age 10 and there are two murder victims, Brackett could seek the death penalty against Gregory. Brackett has not said whether he will, and he declined Monday to discuss Gregory’s decision to defend himself.

Gregory has more than $600,000 in a retirement account, $80,000 in other accounts, and owns a $150,000 home and four vehicles, according to court testimony and documents.

His decision to represent himself is legal but would be rare in a capital case.

It can cost $50,000 or more to hire defense lawyers for a murder trial. Harry Dest, the 16th Circuit chief public defender, already has questioned Gregory’s mental state and brought up the possibility that Gregory was incompetent at the time of the crimes and now.

Dest declined to comment on Gregory’s decision to not hire a private lawyer.

Gregory also could find himself facing wrongful death lawsuits expected to be filed by his granddaughter’s maternal family, who was fighting with Gregory in Family Court over custody of Mia at the time of the murders.

In the court filing, Gregory says he will not talk to police. According to police and court records, he already has confessed to both killings.

Gregory also says that Bruce Poore, his civil lawyer in the contested custody battle over his granddaughter, Mia, can convey any dealings with prosecutors to Gregory while Gregory remains jailed. Poore has not commented on the case since the killings and did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

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