We are Philadelphians and Gerry Grandzol was our neighbor, fellow gardener, and friend. Many of us live within 200 yards of where Marvin Roberts allegedly shot Gerry twice in the head and killed him last Sept. 7, in front of his daughter, while his 6-week-old baby and wife Kristin were steps away inside their home. Some of us were present that night, trying to save Gerry’s life, consoling the inconsolable, providing police with video, and living through the aftermath of this heinous crime. We have rallied around Kristin and her daughters since this awful journey began on Sept. 7.
We write to add our voices to your recent story about Kristin, and to ask District Attorney Larry Krasner to seek justice for us and our city.
Our hearts break for Kristin and her family. We will miss Kristin, but we understand why she’s leaving to start a new chapter in Chester County. Kristin can count on us to stay in the city Gerry loved dearly and carry on the goodness he brought to our close-knit corner of Spring Garden. We will continue our traditions, like Saturday street sweeps, block parties, shoveling our neighbors’ sidewalks, “Stoop Thursdays,” and kiddie races. We will not be defeated by the violence inflicted on our community.
Make no mistake — Gerry’s murder traumatized our neighborhood. We believe that Marvin Roberts took Gerry from us for no reason. We miss him. Gerry was a positive force and made our neighborhood a better place. He knew everyone and made sure everyone knew each other. He was always out on the sidewalk playing with his daughter or working on a home improvement project. He loved working in our community garden, refining his plot and helping everyone else, either cleaning or planting. He always had a kind comment and his energy seemed boundless. We will carry Gerry’s legacy forward to sustain this wonderful city.
Gerry’s legacy also calls us to advocate for justice. We ask DA Krasner to stand up for the victims of Marvin Roberts’ alleged crime – Gerry, his wife and daughters, his neighbors and colleagues, and our whole community. Specifically, we ask DA Krasner to do everything in his power to prevent this case from moving to Juvenile Court.
Our criminal justice system is broken in many places, and strategic reforms should make the system fairer for all Philadelphians. The case of Commonwealth v. Marvin Roberts, however, does not implicate these issues. Roberts’ alleged crime was no youthful indiscretion, or a case in which a youthful offender could not have fully comprehended or anticipated the result of his actions. On Sept. 7, Roberts was under Juvenile Court supervision for a prior robbery involving physical threats and charges of assault and reckless endangerment. Despite this second chance, he allegedly brought an illegal gun to our neighborhood, with the stated intention of committing another robbery. Then, he allegedly stepped up to Gerry for no reason and shot him twice in the head at point-blank range. The terrible crime was captured on video and audio, leaving no doubt in our minds that he murdered Gerry. We believe that the Juvenile Court process did not rehabilitate him – instead, he escalated from robbery to murder.
For justice to prevail, we need Marvin Roberts and his brother to get full and fair trials, and for Roberts to receive an effective and vigorous defense. Justice also requires that the people have a zealous advocate, and that is the district attorney. We need Krasner to try Roberts as an adult and prosecute him to fullest extent of the law. We believe Roberts committed an adult crime. His prior encounter with the juvenile justice system failed to rehabilitate him or protect the community. A juvenile prosecution or light sentence for this horrible crime will devastate our confidence in Krasner’s commitment to represent victims and keep our city safe.
Gerry Grandzol is not the city’s only homicide victim, and we are not the only neighbors impacted by violent crime. How Krasner approaches Gerry’s case should matter to all Philadelphians. We need Krasner to represent all the people in this city by fighting for all victims, survivors, neighbors, and communities who are devastated by violent crime.
District Attorney Krasner: please fight for victims, their families, and their communities. Please fight for us.
Justino E. Navarro is president of the Spring Garden Civic Association. Other Spring Garden neighbors who signed this letter include: Laurence Bach and David Mitchell, Amy and Tarek Bahgat, Greg and Kelly Baldwin, Felix and Gladys Berrios, Peter Capolino and Fran Deitrich, Audry and Andy Carter, Patrick and Allison Casey, Betsy and Hilary Connor, Pat and Ally Daley, Earle F. Drake and Helen Pappas, Brendan and Naomi Fernald, Lauren Dussault and Robert Forchetti, Kevin and Devin Fox, Caroline and Christopher Goodchild, Bradley and Julia Griffith, John and Krista LeCompte, Elena and Ken Levitan, Clark and Cecilia Manser, Matthew McMahon and Kathryn Frick, Robert L. Moran and Margaret B. Moran, Devon Moyer, James and Hollie Nevin, Maria Picone and Christopher DeFelice, Elaine Petrossian and Ted Rauch, Nathan and Katie Proulx, William Smith, Yee Wan.