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Grandmother pleads guilty in 2004 case

MONTICELLO – A Lawrence County woman has pleaded guilty tosexual battery after initially being charged with capital murder inthe 2004 death of her 4-month-old grandchild, authoritiessaid.

Mary P. Grandberry, 60, of Silver Creek, pleaded guilty to onecount of sexual battery on June 13, one week before the case wasscheduled to go to trial, said Haldon Kittrell, district attorneyfor the 15th Circuit Court District.

“We had to evaluate the case, and we looked at it and believed itwould be in the best interest for everyone,” he said of the chargereduction.

Grandberry is scheduled to be sentenced July 1 and faces up to 30years on the charge.

She was arrested in September 2004 and charged with capital murderin the death of her granddaughter, Daria K’Mya Grandberry, who wasborn on March 19, 2004, and died four months later on July 21 ofinternal hemorrhaging at Marion General Hospital.

The elder Grandberry spent about two years in jail before beingplaced on a medical release, said Lawrence County Sheriff JoelThames.

“She had a lot of health problems, and the judge put her on amedical release pending trial,” said Thames.

At the time of Grandberry’s arrest, prosecutors said the infant haddied from torture. The coroner’s report on the baby’s death saidthe infant died from “complications resulting frommolestation.”

Kittrell said his office re-evaluated their case after learning theGrandberry defense team planned to present an expert witness whowould contest the cause of death.

“The defense was really harping on the fact that they had an expertwho was going to say that the death wasn’t based on sexual battery,but on a liver malfunction,” he said. “The expert acknowledged thesexual battery was there, but didn’t acknowledge it was the causeof death.”

After learning of the defense expert’s findings and of otherweaknesses that concerned him about the case, Kittrell said hisoffice made an assessment and decided they couldn’t allow thepossibility of acquittal.

“The expert … that’s damning to a case,” he said. “If the juryaccepted the expert’s opinion, we would have had acquittal.”

He said that would have been unacceptable.

“We had to do something and couldn’t let her walk,” saidKittrell.

As a result, Kittrell and his staff used their power of “chargebargaining” – which means the district attorney can reduce thecharge the defendant will plead to – to allow the plea to sexualbattery.

“In Lawrence County, we don’t have plea bargaining, and all we cando is charge bargaining,” he said. “As a result, it will be purelyup to the judge for sentencing.”

Kittrell said the charge carries a maximum of 30 years injail.

“The judge can give her zero to 30 years, and those will be servedday for day with no eligibility for parole,” he said.

Defense attorney Bob Evans, of Monticello, said the decision toplead was made by Grandberry to protect her interests and theinterests of her family.

“She decided it was in her best interest not to go to court on acapital murder case,” he said. “She wanted to get everything overwith, get the family out of the situation it’s been in for yearsnow.”

The case has been a long time coming to a conclusion.

Kittrell, who was elected in 2008, said he was unsure of the exactreason why it took seven years to make a definitive move on theGrandberry case.

“I know it had a lot to do with exhaustive motions filed by thedefense team,” he said.

Kittrell said the defense team had been buoyed by assistance fromthe Capital Defense Group, a state-funded team that is available toassist the defense in capital murder cases.

“This group … they’ll pound you down with 60 motions at onetime,” he said. “It just bogs the process down, and it’shorrible.”

Evans said it was never the intention of the defense to “bog” downthe case.

“Certainly, that’s not our intent,” he said. “We have the duty toprotect the defendant’s rights by filing motions and finding outeverything we can know.”

The district attorney said the deal does not reflect any problemswith the investigation and he praised the work of investigators,especially Thames and the Lawrence County Sheriff’sDepartment.

“There was nothing involving the investigation itself that promptedus to make the plea decision,” Kittrell said. “Sometimes, it’s justthe nature of the beast.”