Solicitor: No ‘criminal conduct’ in jail death of Rock Hill double murder suspect

No charges will be filed in the death of a Rock Hill man who authorities say committed suicide in jail after he had been arrested and charged with killing his neighbor and stepmother last year.

In a letter to the State Law Enforcement Divsion, 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett writes that he reviewed the investigation and concluded “that there exists no evidence of criminal conduct” on the part of any jail staff involved in “maintaining the custody and control of Mr. (Joshua) Grose during his incarceration” at the York County Detention Center. “His death,” Brackett writes, “was the result of self-inflicted injuries.”

Joshua Matthew Grose, 34, had been charged with two counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of grand larceny after deputies say he stole 53-year-old Sandra Thomas’ car and ran over her and his stepmother, Sandra Grose, 65, on Oct. 18 in the River Pines subdivision off Mount Gallant Road. Authorities say he also assaulted his uncle, Curt Allen Sisk, 60.

Grose died two days later, after a nearly two-hour struggle with detention center guards in which he became violent and combative. He fought against officers after they tried to stop him from banging his head repeatedly against a wall, authorities say.

Officials placed Grose, wearing a football helmet, in a restraint chair, but he continued to struggle. Jailers put him in a cell, but the chair was positioned in a way that allowed him to throw his head backward against the chair and a cell window. He was found unresponsive at about 2:30 a.m., authorities say.

After performing CPR for nearly 20 minutes, an EMS crew took Grose to Piedmont Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. His death prompted an investigation by SLED, which is common after inmates die in police custody. In his letter, Brackett writes that Grose began injuring himself and became combative and violent when jail staff tried stopping him.

“The officers were placed in the difficult position of trying to restrain him from his self-destructive behavior while protecting both themselves and Mr. Grose,” Brackett said in the letter. “The force used to restrain him was reasonable and appropriate given the circumstances the officers faced.”

Now that Brackett has decided he will not prosecute, the SLED investigation into Grose’s death is officially closed. Deputies had said they were still investigating the double homicide to bring families closure, but on Friday the York County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment.

There’s little closure for Karen Petranovich, Grose’s biological mother, who said she did not learn of her son’s death until months later. She tried calling Grose on his birthday in October, at Thanksgiving and at Christmas. She was unable to reach anyone and assumed Sandra Grose moved away. She began calling law enforcement in Rock Hill before reaching York County Coroner Sabrina Gast, who told her about Grose’s charges and subsequent arrest.

“Everybody just assumed that Joshua did it. I just can’t picture him doing anything like this,” said Petranovich, who lives in South Dakota. “There’s never been any kind of violence (in him) ... there was never a violent past.”

Police records show Grose had displayed erratic, unnerving behavior that concerned his neighbors in the past. Grose moved to Rock Hill with his father, Kenneth Grose, several summers after his parents divorced, Petranovich said. Ken Grose later married Sandra Grose. She said Grose and his stepmother had a good relationship.

“She was very, very caring,” Petranovich recalled. “She was a very good stepmom.”

Randy Cornell, owner of the American Martial Arts Institute on Heckle Boulevard where Sandra Grose worked, said on Friday he encouraged his friend to kick out her stepson. He was unemployed, Cornell said, and lived with his stepmother rent-free. Sandra Grose didn’t want to kick Grose out because she didn’t think he could care for himself, Cornell said.

“Sandy was my buddy,” Cornell said. “We knew each other for over 20 years. She knew everything about me.”

Petranovich said her son never displayed signs of mental illness. He “got into marijuana,” she said, but not hardcore drugs.

“He was really a very, very sweet boy,” she said, adding that she feels Grose’s mental state began deteriorating once his father committed suicide in 2009. “He was very, very upset over his dad dying.”

Petranovich said she grieves for Sandra Thomas, Sandra Grose and her son.

“Closure is not even on the horizon yet,” Petranovich said, adding that she is unhappy with the results of the SLED investigation, but expected it. “You’re having the police investigating the police.”

It remains difficult for Petranovich to accept what authorities have accused her son of doing.

“When Joshua was really little, he wanted to become a pilot,” she said. “He had dreams too, like everybody does. It’s just ... he was swimming upstream; he was just never getting anywhere.”