Ronald Fred Gregory just might be the worst killer in York County history. Only his age kept him out of the electric chair.
Yet the money he made in his life, and the chaos Gregory and his guns created, remain.
Except for $40,000 that Gregory apparently took out of the bank days before the shootings so there was money to pay for funerals for the three killings he planned – two of which he carried out, court records show.
“That’s the kind of man my father was,” said Kevin Gregory, Mia’s father, in a probate court deposition last year.
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The kind of guy who would kill his wife and granddaughter, but doesn’t want to leave a bill, apparently.
Gregory shot his wife, Barbara, and granddaughter, Mia Rodgers. Last year he agreed to pay $5 million in damages in the killing of his wife.
The maternal side of Mia Rodgers’ family continues to battle with Gregory’s son – Mia’s father – in the probate court over control of her estate, and who will be Mia’s personal representative. The court battle has gone on for almost two years and remains pending.
Monday marks two years since Ronald Gregory shot his invalid wife and left her dying on the floor next to her wheelchair in their Rock Hill home.
Gregory then went to see his 9-year-old granddaughter Mia, whom he had fought to have custody of for more than a year. The maternal grandparents also wanted custody of Mia and had raised her for at least part of her life.
Gregory crawled into bed with his granddaughter, shot her, and listened to her anguished cries for help for an hour until she bled to death next to him.
Gregory then shot himself twice and called 911. He survived.
Gregory, 69, offered no reasons for double murder, other than telling police he had planned on taking his own life.
He is serving two life sentences for murder after pleading guilty but mentally ill in July 2014, four months after the killings. He is working as an electrician’s helper in prison after four decades working at Duke Energy and saving close to a million dollars, if not more, in money and property before becoming a monster.
Yet the aftermath of Gregory’s vicious killings isn’t over – because of the money.
Wrongful death of Barbara Gregory
The children of Ronald Gregory lost their mother by his hand.
Kevin Gregory, the son, lost both his mother and his daughter.
The son and daughter, who have previously chosen not to talk about the case and deferred all questions to their lawyer, are victims of their father’s crimes. They were treated as victims by police and prosecutors.
Ronald Fred Gregory was named in a wrongful death lawsuit for killing his wife.
Last year Ronald Gregory signed a confession of judgment from a civil lawsuit brought by his daughter, Kristie Hawkins, as a personal representative the estate of his dead wife, according to court records. He agreed to pay $2 million in actual damages and $3 million in punitive damages.
The money has not been paid, officials with the York County Clerk of Court Office said. It remains unclear when, or if, the money will ever be paid. Gregory is in prison without access to whatever money he had stashed away.
Where his assets are is unclear. Prosecutors said in court in 2014 when Gregory pleaded guilty that he had assets in many forms, including retirement accounts.
Wrongful death of Mia Rodgers
Soon after Mia died the Rodgers, the maternal side of Mia’s family, filed a lawsuit, asking for a temporary restraining order to keep the Gregorys from spending any of Ronald Gregory’s assets. The request was a precursor to a planned wrongful death lawsuit against Ronald Gregory for Mia’s murder.
A judge denied the restraining order as an attorney for the Gregory children successfully argued the Rodgers family had no standing in the issue because Kevin Gregory was the personal representative for Mia’s estate.
No wrongful death lawsuit concerning Mia has been filed in state court in York County or in federal court in Columbia, records show.
The Rodgers’ lawyer, Randall Hood, has said previously that a wrongful death lawsuit will be filed when the probate issue is settled.
Two years after the murders, probate is not settled.
The probate battle
The battle over who raised Mia is pending.
According to probate court records, Mia lived at times with her maternal grandparents, Paul and Nina Rodgers, in York County; her paternal grandparents Ronald and Barbara Gregory, in York County; and her mother, Angie Rodgers Benoit.
She never lived with her father, Kevin Gregory, except for what he says in court records were weekend visits.
All sides dispute who gave what money and time to raise Mia. That is central to the probate issue.
The probate record shows that Mia’s mother, Angie Rodgers Benoit, died of leukemia in 2013. In 2012, before she died, Ronald Gregory hired a lawyer to try and get custody of Mia.
Ronald Gregory was upset, according to probate court depositions, that Angie Benoit wanted to terminate Kevin Gregory’s parental rights. Termination could have ended Ronald and Barbara Gregory’s visitation rights with Mia.
Angie Benoit had told Kevin Gregory and his parents what she was doing, court records show. Ronald Gregory moved to stop any termination of visitation rights.
“He said he wasn’t going to put up with no more of her (Angie Benoit’s) stuff,” Kevin Gregory said in a deposition.
A lawyer in Florida where Angie Benoit lived claimed in an affidavit filed with the probate court that Kevin Gregory agreed to terminate his parental rights. Kevin Gregory disputes that.
So the court battle, first in Texas and then South Carolina, went on for custody.
In October 2013 Kevin Gregory and his parents filed for emergency custody and were granted custody by a Family Court judge in York County. That decision came after a court-appointed guardian ad litem for Mia – whose job was to investigate Ronald Gregory and his home life – found nothing awry with Ronald Gregory.
There was no mention of guns in the house or murderous intentions in the guardian report. There was no mention of Ronald Gregory being suicidal – as he told police after he killed his wife and granddaughter before trying to kill himself.
Kevin Gregory was named personal representative in Mia’s probate case soon after she was killed because her mother died in 2013. Eric Rodgers, Angie Benoit’s brother, petitioned the probate court for control of Mia’s estate rather than have it in Kevin Gregory’s hands.
Efforts to reach the lawyers representing Eric Rodgers or Kevin Gregory were unsuccessful.
It appears that the $40,000 for funerals that Ronald Gregory put in the freezer before the killings, ostensibly for the funerals, was not enough.
At Rock Hill Memorial Gardens, where Barbara Gregory and Mia Rodgers were buried side-by-side two years ago on the same day Ronald Gregory was arrested, , there are no headstones. For Barbara Gregory there is a tiny metal sign with her name on it, and a single set of fake plastic flowers.
For Mia there are no flowers, just two small metal plates.
One reads, “Love leaves a memory that no one can steal.”
The other lists the year she was born, the year she died, and her name.