Mia Rodgers bled on the bed. The sheets, blankets, and the little girl’s frilly bedspread were covered in her blood. Her pink-painted, glue-on fingernails clawed at the blanket.
She had been shot minutes before by her paternal grandfather, Ronald Fred Gregory. In the wee hours of March 21, he lay there next to her. Mia found the breath in her punctured lung to ask the grandfather: “Paw paw, when am I going to stop hurting?”
The grandfather did nothing. He thought of himself.
Mia Rodgers, 75 pounds in the third grade, bled for more than an hour before she died.
No more custody battles between her father’s family and her dead mother’s family. No more courtrooms and judges and shuttling around on weekends.
This paternal grandfather, at 68, also killed his bedridden, invalid wife that morning. Barbara Gregory, shot first, was killed with the same 9 millimeter pistol that Ronald Gregory used on Mia.
Gregory, who claimed that a reason for using the gun was a concern that fumes from Mia’s glue-on nails would cause his granddaughter brain damage, did not call an ambulance when the girl asked him when the hurt would stop. He just lay there in the bed.
Until Monday, when Gregory pleaded guilty but mentally ill to both killings and was sentenced to life in prison, Mia’s maternal grandfather had never heard that Mia suffered for more than an hour.
“It is just unbelievable, it is sick, I don’t know how to describe it,” said Paul Rodgers, the grandfather, after court. “It is past wrong. It is ... inhumane.”
In the courtroom, people gasped and sobbed when Mia’s last words were read. Rodgers gasped too. His daughter-in-law, Karen Rodgers, shook with pain and rage. Karen Rodgers and her husband, Eric, are raising Mia’s brother in Alabama.
Eric is the brother of Mia’s mom, who died in November 2013 from leukemia.
“She asked when the pain would stop and that man who shot her, he didn’t do a thing,” Karen Rodgers said as she walked out of the courtroom. “The pain did not stop and he did nothing. Says just about all anyone needs to know about what he is, that awful man. She suffered. Mia suffered.”
The only person in that courtroom who didn’t recoil in horror about the last hour of Mia’s life was the man who shot her. Gregory stood there and said nothing. He displayed no emotion.
On March 21, Gregory did not call 911 until more than 9 hours after the shooting. He called 911 after he had gone to the bank and withdrew money for the second time in three days. The withdrawals total $40,000.
After Gregory called 911, he shot himself twice in the chest with the same gun he used to kill his wife and granddaughter.
He shot them, Gregory told police, because he had planned to harm himself for weeks but then decided that if he wasn’t around, he didn’t want the wife or grandchild to suffer. But as Paul Rodgers, the maternal grandfather, has said, Mia was not suffering before March 21. Mia was healthy. She had people who loved her. She had support.
Paul Rodgers doesn’t buy anything about Gregory worrying about Mia and glue from fake nails.
“Not for one second,” Paul Rodgers said. “That’s nonsense. He called me the morning before when he took her to the doctor and said she was fine. If he doesn’t want her to be in pain, then why shoot her?”
Gregory also claimed to police that an ongoing custody battle was not the reason for the killings. Gregory and his son were given custody of Mia just months before the killings.
Paul Rodgers, however, scoffed at that.
“We raised Mia, not him and not them,” Rodgers said of Mia’s father and paternal grandparents.
Paul Rodgers has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Gregory and his son – Mia’s father – alleging that the Gregorys lied to get custody of Mia.
Paul Rodgers also has come to grips with prosecutors not seeking the death penalty. The appeals would take years, and Gregory, at age 68 and supposedly mentally ill, would likely die in prison trying to overturn any death sentence.
He would have had the right to appeal a death sentence. His granddaughter was not given that chance.