Gina Grant was the daughter of Charles Grant
and Dorothy Mayfield, both of whom lived in Lexington, South
Carolina. She had one sister, who was 9 years older than she was.
Gina's father died of lung cancer when Gina was 11 years old.
At the time of her crime, Grant was a juvenile
so as per the law pertaining to minors, the criminal records are
sealed. However, the Lexington County sheriff, James Metts - who
handled the original case - released Grant's name immediately
after her arrest. Thus, the facts of the case are available in
copious newspaper and magazine articles published in the early
On September 13, 1990 in Lexington, South
Carolina, the 14-year old Grant bludgeoned her mother thirteen
times with a crystal candlestick, crushing her skull. She mopped
up pools of blood from the kitchen floor and hid the candlestick
and bloody rags in a closet. She then tried to make the death look
like suicide by sticking a carving knife into the side of her
mother's neck, and wrapping her mother's fingers around the
Grant changed her story several times.
Initially, she told police that her mother attacked her while
holding a knife and then stabbed herself in the throat. When the
candlestick was discovered, Grant changed her story, eventually
telling the police that she had committed the killing in
self-defense. She was charged with murder.
In mitigation, evidence suggested that Grant's
mother was an alcoholic. Gina claimed that her mother had been
physically abusive, which her sister attested to. Grant pleaded no
contest to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to a year in
juvenile detention, with probation until age 18. Her boyfriend
pleaded no contest to being an accessory to voluntary manslaughter
after the fact and served nearly a year in juvenile detention.
Grant was given permission by the juvenile
court to relocate to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to live with a
paternal aunt and uncle. She began attending Cambridge Rindge and
Latin High School in 1992, where she excelled academically,
tutored impoverished children, and was co-captain of the tennis
Grant's crime became the subject of national
headlines when, in January 1995, she was given early admission to
Harvard University. She also reportedly told her Harvard
interviewer that her mother had died in an accident. Her lawyer
later argued that educational institutions are forbidden by
Massachusetts state law to ask about criminal matters that do not
result in "convictions". Juveniles found guilty are "adjudicated
delinquent" rather than "convicted".
Some campus publications and newspapers sided
with Grant, citing Grant's mother's alcoholism and Grant's
allegations of physical abuse. Grant's attorney stated that Grant
was not obligated to disclose an event that occurred when she was
a juvenile and which was sealed upon her turning 18. Some in the
press, including an editorial in The New York Times and an
article in the Chicago Tribune, criticized Harvard for
being unforgiving in rescinding its offer. Among those criticizing
the admissions committee also included Harvard University
professors Charles Ogletree and Alan Dershowitz.
Grant herself made no appearances, other than
issuing a brief statement: "I deal with this tragedy every day on
a personal level. It serves no good purpose for anyone else to
dredge up the pain of my childhood. In addition, I have no wish to
defame my mother's memory by detailing any abuse."
Grant had also been accepted to Columbia
University, Barnard College, and Tufts University. In the
controversy surrounding Harvard's decision, Columbia and Barnard
also chose to rescind their acceptances without discussing the
matter with Grant. Tufts University President John DiBiaggio, who
had the authority to reverse the decision of the Tufts admissions
committee, chose not to and indeed strongly supported their
decision. Grant attended Tufts as part of the Class of 1999.
London Sunday Times Magazine
August 27, 1995
not every day that Harvard slams the door on a model American
student like Gina Grant. But then there was this business with the
candlestick and the knife, and the brutally battered and stabbed
body of her mother, wasn’t there ? Some say what she did when she
was 14 is academic. Report by Russell Miller.
is Gina Grant? Round and about rural Lexington Count South
Carolina, where she grew up, there are plenty of good folk who
will tell you that Gina was just the nicest teenager you could
hope to meet. She was not only smart, an honours student, but
cute, pretty and popular, she was a cheerleader and a star in the
school tennis team. It was a shame, yes, a cryin' shame, what
happened to her.
there are some citizens of Lexington who will tell you, perhaps
with a slow shake of the head, that Gina is far, very far, from
the blonde sweetheart that everyone seems to think she is. They
say she is a cunning manipulative young woman who literally got
away with murder.
think she committed a carefully planned and particularly brutal
murder," says the Lexington County sheriff James Metts, whose own
daughter was in the same class as Gina at school, "and I think she
knew all along that she would get away with it."
Gina Grant is the American teenager who was recently propelled to
the centre of a national debate on the limits of retribution and
redemption when an offer of early admission to Harvard, one of
America's most illustrious universities, was suddenly withdrawn
after it was discovered that she had been less than candid about
her background on her application form. Gina had neglected to
mention that at the age of 14 she had battered her mother to death
with a crystal candlestick. The university issued a po faced
statement explaining that it had the right to rescind admission if
a student "engages in behaviour that brings into question honesty,
maturity or moral character" It seems that Gina told an interview
board that her mother had died "in an accident".
Harvard was unprepared for the furore its decision would provoke.
When the news leaked out, angry students held demonstrations on
Gina's behalf, arguing that she had paid her debt to society and
deserved to be treated like everyone else. The Harvard Crimson,
the campus newspaper, was inundated with letters of support.
Soon heavyweight media commentators were weighing in. The New York
Times attacked Harvard's "unseemly haste" in rescinding its offer.
In The Nation, the columnist Alexander Cockburn ridiculed the
university for turning Grant away while awarding a fellowship to a
Guatemalan government minister accused of supervising a massacre
of Mayan Indians.
Gina herself refrained from entering the fray, other than issuing
a brief statement: "I deal with this tragedy every day on a
personal level. It serves no good purpose for anyone else to
dredge up the pain of my childhood. In addition, I have no wish to
defame my mother's memory by detailing any abuse."
While the national debate focused on the behaviour of the
university and the right of juvenile offenders to be given a fresh
start, back in Lexington the issues were closer to home. There
were those people, perhaps the majority, who believed that poor
Gina had been abused, was driven to do what she did, and had shown
by 26 her exemplary behaviour since then that she deserved a
second chance. And there were those who were convinced that she
was a cold blooded killer who should have been locked up for a
long, long time.
Shortly after midnight on September 13, 1990, Dana Grant, a 23
year old nurse at Lexington Medical Center, made a 911 emergency
call from a payphone at an Amoco garage near her home. She said
she had just arrived home from work but had found both the back
and the side door locked. Her mother and her younger sister, Gina,
should have been home. When she yelled for someone to open the
door, nobody replied. She tried to open the front door with her
key, but it was pushed shut again from the inside. She did not
know what was going on.
Lexington County sheriff's deputy, Tim Darling, responded to her
call, picked Dana up at the garage and drove her home to a
pleasant colonial style house with brown shutters, set in its own
grounds off Highway 378. When they arrived they found 14 year old
Gina standing outside, obviously in an agitated state. She told
her sister that she had gotten into a fight with Momma and that
Momma was hurt and might be dead
Darling went into the house and saw what appeared to be thick
smears of blood on the floor of the entrance hail. In the dining
room he found the body of a woman, with multiple lacerations about
the head and a kitchen knife stuck in her throat.
Detective John Phillips, a taciturn, thin faced man with a
straggly blond moustache, arrived soon afterwards. "It was one of
the most violent and vicious homicides I have ever seen,” he
recalls. "There was blood everywhere, spattered all over the walls
in the kitchen. It was pretty obvious the victim had been killed
in the kitchen and dragged into the dining room for some reason. I
came back out and started talking to the girls. Dana was shook,
but Gina was kinda excited, like her adrenaline was flowing."
Both young women agreed to accompany Phillips back to the County
Sheriff's Department. It was there, at 2am, that Gina made her
said that her mother, Dorothy, was drunk and was screaming at her
while Gina was on the telephone to her boyfriend, Jack Hook. After
she put the telephone down, her mother said, "We need to have this
out now," and made as if she wanted to have a fight, saying to
Gina she was going to "beat her butt" and show her who was in
charge. Dorothy unbuttoned her blouse because she did not want to
"mess up her $300 suit" and took off her rings and her watch.
Gina said she was coming down from her bedroom when her mother
grabbed her near the top of the stairs; they struggled and fell
and her mother hit her head. "I was trying to get away from her
and she kept grabbing my arms and, and doing this number, and
trying to hit me. I mean she hit me in the back, she hit me in my
shoulder, she, she slapped me a couple of times. Then, somehow, I
don't know exactly how, I never really saw it, she had a knife and
she pulled it up... I was terrified at that point 'cause I, I just
knew that she was going to kill me. I grabbed her arm and we
bumped around and I said, 'No, Momma, no!' and stuff like that. I
jerked free of her and was backing up and she just looked at me
and said 'One of us has got to go' again and she stabbed herself
right in front of my eyes and then she was on the floor. Then I
just, uh, stared at her for a couple of seconds. I looked at my
hands and they were covered in blood'.
Detective Phillips didn't believe a word of it. He had been in the
force for too long to think that the kind of head injuries
sustained by the dead woman could have been caused by falling down
carpeted stairs. He was also pretty sure, from the absence of
blood around the wound, that the knife had been stuck into her
throat after she had died.
Phillips and his colleagues made a second attempt to get at the
truth, but Gina stuck to the same story, only conceding that the
struggle might have been a little more violent than she originally
suggested. She added that her mother made threats against her
boyfriend, saying, "I'm going to kill that little son of a bitch."
Meanwhile, forensic officers at the crime scene reported that they
had found a plastic bag in a closet in Gina's bedroom, stuffed
with towels that had apparently been used to mop up the blood
downstairs, together with her mother's jacket, soaked with blood.
The bag also contained a lead crystal candlestick, encrusted with
blood, which was almost certainly the weapon used to kill Dorothy.
Confronted with this information before 5am, Gina agreed to make a
third statement, in which she said she picked up the candlestick
during the struggle and it might have bumped her mother on the
head. She hadn't mentioned it before because she was scared. "The
only thing I withheld from you was that, because I thought that
you would think I killed her, and I didn't. Everything else is
true. I swear. I tried to get some of the blood up from
everywhere. I did it because I don't want to go to jail, because I
didn't kill her."
detectives questioning Gina were unnerved by her cool demeanour
while she was making her statements: she was polite, dry eyed and
calmly changing her story to fit the new information. "If I hadn't
been at the crime scene:' said Phillips, "I would have thought
that she was very believable:' She even cracked a macabre joke
when she asked to go to the rest room. Told she would have to be
accompanied by a woman deputy, she quipped, "Don't worry. I don't
have any body parts in my pocket.' She only cried, briefly, when
she was told that she wouldn't be going home that night and that
she would be charged with murder.
the days following the killing, stories began to emerge about a
side of her life that Gina had kept assiduously hidden. After the
death three years earlier of Gina's father, a civil engineer, her
43 year old mother had taken to the bottle. Although Dorothy
Mayfield (she had recently remarried, but her new husband was away
on the night of the killing) held down a job as a secretary in a
local bank, she was drunk almost every night at home. At the time
of her death, her blood alcohol level was 30; a reading of 37 can
be fatal. In such a state she often flew into a drunken rage,
sometimes inexplicably blaming Gina for the death of her father.
Lexington, relatively affluent, predominantly white, Republican
voting and God fearing, is the kind of town that takes a hard line
on law and order, a place where people talk about an eye for an
eye and mean it. Gina Grant's case was to be a notable exception.
Family and friends positively fell over each other to come out in
support of her. Even Gina's maternal grandparents were
sympathetic. "Gina's my precious baby,' her grandmother told the
local newspaper. "I would give anything in the world to help her.'
At the funeral, Gina's grandfather - the dead woman's father
touched her gently on the hand and wished her well.
Those who refused to accept that sweet Gina was capable of
matricide could reason that she was the victim, a blameless child
who had suffered so much abuse at the hands of her alcoholic
mother that she finally snapped. The trouble was, other than the
fact that Dorothy Mayfield was undoubtedly an alcoholic, there was
precious little evidence of abuse.
Gina apparently said nothing to anyone about problems at home
until a few days before the killing, leading police to suspect
that the crime was premeditated and that she was perhaps setting
up a defence. Over the Labor Day weekend she was out water skiing
on nearby Lake Murray with her friend, Christy Harrelson, when she
suddenly confessed that she was frightened her mother was going to
kill her. Her mother was becoming increasingly violent, she said,
when she was drunk. Christy's mother, alarmed, telephoned the
sheriff's department but was told there was nothing they could do
unless "something happened".
“Christy knew that Gina had problems with her mother's drinking,"
says Eileen Harrelson, "but we never knew it was that bad. You
could never have guessed. She was always cheerful when she was
round here, playing basketball in the back yard, or tennis,
whatever. None of us will ever know what happened that night with
her mother, and I don't know how much Gina remembers, but I feel
sure she thought her life was threatened. I see her as a victim,
yes I do.”
Police officers investigating the Mayfield killing were not
finding it easy to share Mrs. Harrelson's view. The autopsy
revealed that Dorothy had been hit over the head, with
considerable force, at least 13 times. The first blow was struck
from behind while she was sitting at the kitchen table, and she
had tried to ward off further blows but had been brutally beaten
to the ground. She was already dead when a kitchen knife was
driven into her throat with such force that it was embedded one
and a half inches into the vertebrae. Someone had pressed the dead
woman's hand around the handle of the knife in a clumsy attempt to
make it look like a self inflicted wound. The candlestick
(curiously, a present from Gina to her mother) had been wiped
clean of fingerprints.
Investigators soon came to the conclusion that Gina's problems
with her mother were less to do with her mother's alcoholism than
with Gina's passionate adolescent love affair with her boyfriend,
Jack Hook. Jack went to the same school as Gina and played on the
junior varsity football team, but he was a mediocre student, was
often in trouble and had a police record, largely for petty crime
and vandalism. He was not, in short, the kind of boy that a nice
girl like Gina was expected to go out with, which was presumably
one of his attractions. They had started dating when she was 13.
Mayfield may have been a drunk but she was still a mother, and she
made no secret of the fact, that she did not approve of their
relationship. She would have been even less happy had she known
that Gina was sneaking Jack into her bedroom to stay the night at
least once or twice a week. Hook would drive over in his father's
red Corvette late in the evening and hang around outside the house
waiting for a signal from Gina. If she came outside with the
family dog and shouted, "You stupid dog!" it was a signal that her
mother had passed out and Jack could come in. If she said, "Go get
your bone!" it meant he should go home.
About a month before the murder, Gina stayed out all night with
Hook. She attempted to deflect her mother's wrath with a ludicrous
kidnap story. She said she had been walking away from some friends
near the football ground when a "tall, fat, smelly man" shoved her
into a beat up grey Toyota, told her not to scream and drove her
around all night. Gina filed a complaint with the sheriff's
department but later confessed she had made it all up, and the
matter was dropped.
her statements, Gina made no secret of the fact that her boyfriend
was a significant cause of friction with her mother, and police
suspected from the outset that Hook might have been involved. He
was interviewed at his home in Maple Road on the morning of the
killing and swore that he had not been at Gina's house the
previous night. He said he had spoken to her on the telephone at
about 9:3Opm and had heard her mother ranting in the background,
but he had not gone over there.
few days later, Hook was fingerprinted and it was discovered that
his prints matched those on the handle of the knife found in Dot
Mayfield's throat. Hook protested that he was always over at
Gina's house and so his fingerprints were probably on a lot of
knives; in fact he remembered, only a few days earlier, he had
been practicing throwing knives into a tree. The detectives were
unimpressed; they believed that Gina had probably called Jack over
to the house after the killing and that he had not only stuck the
knife in the dead woman's throat but had also helped her clear up
the mess. Hook was charged with being an accessory and held in the
juvenile wing of Lexington County jail.
is, of course, impossible to know what was going through Gina
Grant's mind in the next few weeks. What is known is that on
October 17, 1990, the sheriff's department was contacted and told
that Gina wished to make a new statement. It transpired she wanted
to tell them that her boyfriend had killed her mother.
had come into the house through the back door, she said, while she
was fighting with her mother in the kitchen. Her mother then
picked up a knife, which she held a few inches from Gina's face.
"I was just trying to make her drop it and I was still yelling
and, uh, I saw him run off into the den area and then he came
back. I remember seeing his hand raised with the crystal thing,
the candlestick, in his hand. I saw him hit her once in the back
of the head and then I just turned away... I didn't hear Momma
scream, um, I, you know, didn't hear a whole lot of noises. I
heard him hitting her and then I was leaning on the counter and I
had my hands up against my head and I was screaming and then, I,
I, looked up and I saw everything that had happened and Jack was
just, he was standing there, he had started shaking all over and,
um, he was saying, 'Oh my God, oh my God..." The interviewing
officer asked Gina how the knife got into her mother's throat. "I
guess he stabbed her," she replied.
the end of the statement, Gina agreed that she had come forward
with the new story because she had been told that otherwise she
would be going to jail.
"So you're telling us that Jack did this so you can get out of
"What happens if Jack tells us you did it so he can get out of
"You just have to decide who you believe, I guess"
Sheila Hook, Jack's mother, was distraught when she learned that
Gina had made a new statement pinning the blame on her son,
particularly as Gina regularly telephoned her from the jail to
tell her Jack was innocent. Jack's lawyer advised Mrs. Hook to
start recording all her telephone conversations with Gina.
transcripts make fascinating reading, Gina seems composed
throughout, keen to discover what Jack is telling his mother.
Sometimes she assures Mrs. Hook that Jack wasn't at the house that
night, sometimes she says she thinks a third party was involved,
sometimes she says she can't really remember what happened, maybe
Jack was there. Mrs. Hook constantly pleads with her to tell the
truth; Gina constantly swears that she has.
During one call, a sniffling Mrs. Hook read out to Gina a letter
that Jack had written to her. It was, under the circumstances,
remarkably restrained: "Gina, well how are you doing? Fine, I
hope... Gina, I'm sorry and I know you're hurting all over, but I
just want the best for you in the long run. Times are hard now,
but they will get better. If you tell the whole truth of what
happened the law will respect you for that and help you out,
because they know how your mother was. I don't know what happened
that night and I don't care, because I love you all the same. I
know it's hard but, Gina, you have to get strong and help
yourself. I'll stick by you the whole way, and wherever you go
I'll be there whenever I can. It's not easy for me either, I mean
I'm in jail for something I have nothing to do with. None of my
friends will ever have the same trust in me. I can never play
football again and I'll fail the ninth grade, but all that I can
handle, but I can't handle seeing you in jail for the rest of your
life. I'm sorry and I wish I could help you, but there's nothing I
can do except tell you the best thing to do. I'm sorry and I'll
love you forever. Gina, just tell your lawyer what happened and he
will straighten it out for you. I'm sorry again and I love you
very much. PS: Write back. I love you forever, Gina. Jack."
Gina appeared unmoved and suggested later in the same conversation
that it might be a good idea if Jack, who she knew was not too
Gina: Well, Jack has several options... one [is to] turn against
me and say I did it, and then it turns into a circus and then
we'll just have to see who they believe. Or he can make like a
confession or something like that and they would reduce the
Mrs. Hook: "A confession!"
"Something, something along those lines…”
mean, really...(sniff) Jack wasn't there! Or was he? I mean one
minute you say he was and one minute you say he wasn't”
"(Sniff) No what?"
"No, he wasn't, Mrs. Hook.”
Whatever Gina hoped to achieve from accusing her boyfriend of the
murder did not come to pass. In January 1991, on the advice of her
lawyer, she agreed to plead no contest to voluntary manslaughter
in return for the prosecution's dropping the murder charge. Gina
and Jack were both sentenced to be detained in a youth
correctional facility for an indeterminate period, not to exceed
their 21st birthdays.
Nine months later, in a surprise move, a judge agreed that Gina
could be transferred to Massachusetts, to a special residential
school for children with emotional problems. Crucial to the
decision was the fact that Gina's aunt and uncle, Carol and Alan
Bennett, who lived in Massachusetts, promised to provide love and
support and pay for her residential care. With Gina's departure
from South Carolina, the brouhaha created in Lexington County by
the killing of her mother was soon forgotten. Gina, too, might
have been forgotten. But it was not to be
April of this year, the Boston Globe ran a feature about
exceptional teenagers who, by dint of courage, personality or
perseverance, have overcome adversity. One of them was Gina Grant.
was, the newspaper explained, an orphan who had lived alone in a
small flat in Cambridge, Massachusetts, since her 16th birthday. A
straight A student at the respected Cambridge Rindge and Latin
School, where staff spoke glowingly of her as "bright, caring and
loving, like the Ivory Soap girl” she had recently learned she had
been accepted for Harvard. Gina told the Globe her father died of
cancer when she was 11 and her mother had died three years later
in circumstances "too painful to discuss". She had moved to
Cambridge to live with her aunt but it hadn't worked out and so
she had been alone since then, looking after herself and managing
to make ends meet from a modest family trust fund. She found she
coped best with the loss of her parents by helping others; she had
spent the previous summer teaching biology to underprivileged
children. "I learned early on how to be independent," she cheerily
explained. "Life doesn't stop when your parents die.”
timing could hardly have been worse. A few days earlier, someone
who clearly knew about Gina's background had mailed to the
university a package of South Carolina newspaper cuttings relating
to the Dorothy Mayfield murder. On the day after the Boston
Globe's glowing profile of Gina, the Harvard admissions committee
met and decided to rescind its offer of a place.
people in South Carolina were surprised to see Gina Grant's name
back in the headlines, all the agencies and individuals who had
been involved in her case were astounded to learn that she had
been living on her own for at least two years. They all believed
that she was still under strict supervision in a rehabilitation
Inquiries revealed she had only spent a matter of weeks in a
residential facility after her transfer to Massachusetts. She had
then been allowed to move in with her uncle and aunt, but had
promptly had a bitter disagreement with them and moved out to live
on her own. (It was rumoured in Boston that the Bennetts were so
disillusioned with Gina that they were responsible for sending the
newspaper cuttings to Harvard; neither Carol nor Alan Bennett has
spoken about what happened between them and their niece.
Marlene McLain of the South Carolina juvenile Parole Board was
deeply unhappy: "This young lady has made a mockery of the system
and got off with a very, very light sentence. Young people who
commit serious and brutal crimes need to be held accountable, to
express an appropriate level of remorse, and go through a period
of incarceration and rehabilitation. Quite frankly, she has
manipulated the system.”
realisation that Gina was free, and living on her own, less than
18 months after killing her mother also reopened in South Carolina
the whole thorny question about whether or not she had "gotten
away with murder.” "She should have been dealt with much more
harshly than she was," says Sheriff Metts . "Gina Grant is a very
cunning, manipulative and intelligent young lady. She was smart
enough to know what she was doing and smart enough to commit this
crime and get away with it. I'm not saying she's a sociopath, but
there's something about her that really worries me. I do think she
could be violent again if she was put into a situation in which
she was prevented from doing what she wanted to do.”
his office behind Lexington's redbrick courthouse, Donnie Myers,
the county solicitor, shakes his head slowly when I ask him about
Gina. "In my opinion, the criminal justice system has failed
miserably. This was the most gruesome juvenile crime I've ever
handled in this county. I think it must have been preplanned. The
key to it was that she was madly in love with that boy. I think
the mother wanted to stop her seeing the boy so she just picked up
the candlestick and beat the hell out of her. But she was clever,
no question. She stood toe to toe with the officers questioning
her and denied everything. You would catch her out in these
tremendous lies and she would just come right back at you with
something else. She never did fess up.”
Gina's lawyer was Jack Swerling, an amiable, slightly rumpled and
well respected attorney who never lost faith in his client. "I
have no doubt Gina hit her mother in self-defence," he says. "What
struck me most about Gina was her maturity. I was amazed how
bright and articulate she was. She was a unique client and I
always knew she was going to do great things. I am really proud of
the fact that she has stayed out of this debate about getting into
Harvard. She could have turned this thing into megabucks. I was
getting constant phone calls from publicists and agents wanting to
sign her up. She's been offered book contracts and movie contracts
and national television interviews, but she's turned them all
down. She is not looking for attention. All she wants to do is get
her education and do something with herself.”
Yes, Gina will no doubt make a great success of her life. After
the furore over the Harvard application had died down, she quietly
accepted a place at Tufts University, Massachusetts, where she
will start next month. She has talked about becoming a lawyer or a
Jack Hook has not
fared quite so well. After he was released on parole he was soon
in trouble again, with a couple of guys he had met in jail. He is
now back inside, in a high security adult prison, serving 10 years
for second degree burglary, grand larceny and safe cracking.
Changing stories about crime leave lingering
By Fox Butterfield - The New York Times
May 1, 1995
Lexington, S.C. -- For weeks after sheriff's
deputies arrested 14-year-old Gina Grant for bludgeoning her
alcoholic mother to death in 1990, she offered conflicting
accounts of how the crime happened.
It was intruders, she said at first; then, her
mother stabbed herself, injuring her head as she fell down the
stairs to the first floor. Finally, Grant swore to investigators
that it was her boyfriend, Jack Hook, who did the deed.
"I saw him come running up, and he had a
candlestick in his hand," she said. "I saw him hit her in the back
of the head, and then I just turned away and screamed."
But a few nights later, Grant telephoned Hook's
mother, Sheila, from the county jail and admitted that she knew he
was not the killer. "I had to tell them that to save myself,"
Grant said, according to a transcript of the call, which Mrs. Hook
recorded at the suggestion of her son's lawyer.
VICTIM OR MANIPULATOR
Grant's contradictory behavior is at the heart
of a mystery over whether she was the victim of an abusive mother,
as her friends and relatives believe, or a smart, manipulative
young woman who never acknowledged her responsibility for the
killing and was given unusual leniency by a juvenile court judge.
The puzzle was reopened last month when Harvard
University rescinded its admission of Grant after learning from an
anonymous tip that she had pleaded no contest to manslaughter.
She had portrayed herself to Harvard as an
orphan -- her father had died of cancer when she was 11 years old
-- and her story of overcoming adversity was an important factor
in the university's initial decision to admit her, Harvard
professors and officials say. She never told Harvard about her
role in her mother's death.
"Gina was a wonderful person, the best-hearted
person I ever knew," said Christy Harrelson, Grant's closest
friend since they were both 4-year-olds in the Happy Time Nursery
School in Lexington. The two still talk regularly on the phone.
"She was very compassionate and would get mad at me if I stepped
She was also a straight-A student, the first
female president of the student body at Lexington Middle School
and a cheerleader.
Grant's trouble was that her mother was drunk
"every single night," said Harrelson, 19, a student at the College
of Charleston. "Gina denied it, even to me, and she held
everything in," Harrelson recalled.
Grant's mother, Dorothy Mayfield, was described
by prosecutors as a "functional alcoholic" who worked as an
executive secretary at a local bank and was able to conceal her
alcoholism from most of the people who knew her.
TOO DRUNK TO COOK
But Harrelson said that most of the time,
Mayfield was too drunk to cook or clean the house. So to avoid her
unhappy home life, Grant began going to her friend's house after
school and staying with the Harrelson family on weekends. The
girls were so close that Harrelson's mother, Eileen, describes
herself today as Grant's "surrogate mother."
Ten days before the killing, while water-skiing
on Labor Day weekend, Grant confided that her mother "was out of
control, going into rages," Eileen Harrelson said. Mayfield was
especially angry, she said, that one day Grant had consumed all
the milk in the house. Grant said that she was afraid her mother
was going to kill her. Eileen Harrelson said that Grant also said
she had removed from the house a handgun that she found under her
Grant's maternal uncle, Curtis Dickson, who has
strongly supported Grant, said, "She was like the children of all
alcoholics; she learned to become a good liar. They have to be
liars to keep a secret."
And that is why she lied about her mother's
death, Dickson said. "Gina may have believed she could lie her way
out of it like she had pretended about so many things," he said.
"It was just her form of defense mechanism."
Richard Gelles, director of the Family Violence
Research Program at the University of Rhode Island, said it is
"very unusual" for a daughter to kill her mother. But children of
alcoholics, Gelles said, often suffer severe psychological abuse,
and those children who become the most violent may have alcoholic
parents who neglect them emotionally rather than harm them
But Donnie Myers, the solicitor, or prosecutor,
for Lexington County, said, "There can hardly be any excuse for
what was done to that woman." Mayfield's skull was bashed at least
13 times with a lead crystal candlestick. A knife was stuck in her
neck, with her hand wrapped around it, to make it look like
suicide, Myers said. He noted that a plastic trash bag was found
in Grant's closet containing the weapon and towels used to soak up
blood from the floor.
There is no doubt that Mayfield, who had
recently remarried, was an alcoholic, Myers said. But the battle
between mother and daughter, he asserted, concerned Hook, Grant's
boyfriend, who was a year older but in the same class, having been
held back a year because of poor grades, and who had juvenile
record of assorted petty nonviolent crimes.
"She was slipping that boy in the house at
night, when the mother was drunk, and there was tremendous tension
with her mother over him," said Myers.