So many of the little kids who attend American Martial Arts in Rock Hill would have come running into the studio after school today to wish the lady they called “Miss Sandy” a happy birthday.
They cannot wish Sandy Grose a happy 66th birthday – or hug her, or thank her – because she died Oct. 18 when her own stepson ran her over with a stolen SUV.
The students don’t know all the details of this grown-up crime. They know that Miss Sandy cared for them and taught them martial arts – and a lot more.
And now she is gone.
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“Miss Sandy taught me to be respectful,” said Justin Gamble, 11.
“Miss Sandy taught me to do my best,” said Jonas Brazzell, 9.
“Miss Sandy taught me to be helpful,” said Sam Thomas, 9.
“Miss Sandy taught us to be nice to each other and everyone else,” said Jack Thomas, 6.
“Miss Sandy wanted me to try my best every time,” said Cole Arrington, 10.
Cole Smith, 6, was asked why Miss Sandy was such a great teacher at the karate school.
“Because she loved us,” said little Cole.
Sandy Grose was a fifth-degree black belt for more than 20 years and loved teaching martial arts – especially to children. She had a special spot for the tiniest students, some as young as 4.
To give her students a chance to say goodbye, the karate studio is holding a memorial service from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. The students, especially the younger ones, are going to make cards for Grose’s birthday, even though she is not alive to read them.
“It would have been Sandy’s birthday, and she deserves this tribute from all of us,” said Randy Cornell, owner of the studio and a close friend of Grose for almost 20 years. “She cared for the students. They respected her and looked up to her.
“She didn’t deserve what happened to her. Nobody deserves that.”
Miss Sandy was not the only person Joshua Grose, 34, killed that awful day. He also killed a neighbor, Sandy Drawdy Thomas, from whom he had stolen the truck, in the same brutal, awful way – repeatedly running over her.
Joshua Grose then died in jail after trying to kill himself by ramming his head into a wall over and over, then jamming his head into the jail toilet.
The stepson killer has a criminal record that dates back more than 15 years, including stints in prison for drunken driving and drugs, plus other crimes of violence against neighbors and even himself. One time Grose even claimed to have been attacked at his stepmother’s home, when it turned out he had slashed his own wrists. He spent seven months in prison in 2012 after a DUI and failure to stop for police conviction.
After his arrest for the two murders, Grose remained uncooperative and belligerent through more than 24 hours at the York County jail, police have said. A State Law Enforcement Division investigation into how he died after being restrained with special equipment for prisoners who refuse to calm down is ongoing, said SLED spokesman Thom Berry. Police have said paramedics were called twice when Grose was jailed, after two attempts to hurt himself.
Curtis Sisk, the uncle beaten by Joshua Grose at the family’s Mount Gallant Road home before Grose killed his stepmother, was hurt but has been released from the hospital.
A mystery remains: What caused Grose to first steal the SUV from Thomas, run her over, then do the same to his stepmother? A sheriff’s spokesman called the case “puzzling,” but he said the investigation will continue so families of both women eventually will get answers.
Cornell wants answers, too.
“Sandy Grose had a kind heart and was a good person,” he said. “Her son – there isn’t anything good anybody can say about him. He killed that other woman, a neighbor, and then he killed the woman who raised him and gave him everything. She was a wonderful person.
“I told her several times she needed to get rid of her stepson, to make him move out, that she had done all she could for him. He was no good. He showed that over and over. He sponged off her – until he killed her.”
At the Groses’ home on Mount Gallant Road northwest of Rock Hill, just south of the shores of Lake Wylie, an outside light still burns near the front door.
Maybe it is the light of Miss Sandy’s life shown by her generosity and giving spirit to her martial arts students.
The light likely will shine at the empty house until it burns out. There is nobody to replace it because everybody is dead.