Gerard Grandzol, 38, was shot while hesitating to remove his daughter from his vehicle during a carjacking
With his wife recovering from the C-section delivery five weeks earlier of their newborn, Gerard Grandzol took the couple’s 2-year-old daughter and the family dog to Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park on Sept. 7, 2017, where they tossed a Frisbee.
Returning home to his tree-lined street around 8 p.m., the much-loved neighborhood activist was approached by two young brothers as he exited his parked Audi SUV. They told Grandzol to surrender his wallet and car keys.
Grandzol, 38, turned over the former, but told them he wanted to grab his daughter, still secured in the vehicle’s back seat.
“We don’t care,” said Marvin Roberts, then 16, who next fired two fatal shots at Grandzol’s head, prosecutors said, according to NBC Philadelphia.
Surveillance footage showed the brothers laughing afterward, reports Philly.com.
From inside the couple’s home, Kristin Grandzol heard the shots and raced outside, where she heard her daughter’s screams and found her husband on the ground, “choking on his own blood,” she said in court Friday, according to the NBC outlet.
Her daughter “witnessed something that night men who go to war never see,” she said.
“This is what was happening while the defendants laughed,” she said.
Roberts, now 18, pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree murder and other crimes related to the botched robbery and carjacking, and was sentenced to 35-years-to-life in prison, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office confirms to PEOPLE.
His sentencing follows the previous conviction of his older brother, Maurice Roberts, 21, who pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy in the case and was sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison, according to the district attorney’s office
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Among those family members and friends of Grandzol who testified Friday at the hearing where Marvin Roberts was sentenced, one said Grandzol was “our Santa Claus, our Mr. Rogers, and our Mr. Fix-It,” reports Philly.com.
He was hailed as someone who brought people together through his work with a Center City recruitment firm, and an urban advocate and activist prominent in his current and former city neighborhoods.
Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke called Grandzol “the go-to guy” in his community, Grandzol’s widow said Friday, according to Philly.com.
Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn Bronson said he accepted Marvin Roberts’ plea deal and the negotiated sentence offered by prosecutors “with some trepidation,” according to Philly.com. But he wanted to respect the Grandzol family’s desire to avoid a possible protracted trial and appeals process.
“This was a truly senseless tragedy and our hearts go out to Mr. Grandzol’s family, as well as the Spring Garden and Fairmount community that he faithfully served,” said Ben Waxman, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.