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Man pleads guilty to murder in slaying of community activist

January 27, 2019

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — One of two defendants has pleaded guilty to murder in the slaying of a community activist gunned down during an apparent carjacking while the victim’s 2-year-old daughter sat in the back seat.

Maurice Roberts, 21, the older of two brothers charged, pleaded guilty Friday to third-degree murder and related offenses in exchange for a 25- to 50-year prison term, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Charges remain against 18-year-old Marvin Roberts, who was 16 when authorities allege he shot and killed 38-year-old Gerald Grandzol in September 2017. Prosecutors told the judge he has been offered a deal to plead guilty Feb. 8; if not, a trial is slated March 4.

Police allege Grandzol was accosted outside his home by two males who demanded his wallet and his keys. He was shot after he asked to remove his child from the vehicle.

Maurice Roberts’ attorney earlier said his client didn’t know his younger brother would shoot anybody. Maurice Roberts said after the hearing that he was sorry.

“I didn’t want none of that to happen,” he said. “I had no control of it. I just want to say that I apologize for what happened.”

Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said Grandzol willingly handed over his wallet but when the keys were demanded, he asked to get his daughter out of the back seat. Pescatore told the judge that Maurice Roberts could be heard on the video saying, “We don’t care.” Marvin Roberts said, “No,” and shot Grandzol twice in the face, authorities said.

Subway surveillance video showed the two brothers laughing after the shooting, Pescatore said. The judge called the shooting “senseless and outrageous.”

Grandzol’s wife and other relatives and friends spoke in court about how special Grandzol was in his Spring Garden community, working for Project HOME on homelessness, at the legal recruitment firm Special Counsel, and especially as a father of two young girls.

“We were in love, happy, and just starting our life together,” Kristin Grandzol said. After the hearing, she said she was disappointed with the plea deal, having hoped for 1st- or 2nd-degree murder.

She said, however, that “If this is the best we could get, I’ll take it. No amount of time will ever feel like enough. Nothing will bring Gerry back.”

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Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.inquirer.com

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