Thirty-five years after his son was found fatally bludgeoned in Atlantic City, Gary Grant Sr. got some hope.
Gary Jr. was just 7 when he left his mother’s home Jan. 12, 1984. He never returned home.
Two days later, his body was found in an abandoned lot on North California Avenue, just two blocks from his home.
“There is no such thing as a cold case in Atlantic County because we are working to investigate every unsolved homicide,” Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said in a news release on the anniversary of the horrific discovery. “The unsolved murder of Gary Grant Jr., like any other case, is very important to solve to be able to give the family, friends and community closure.”
It has a personal touch for Tyner, an Atlantic City native who was 13 at the time, and played basketball for the boy’s father.
“I remember Gary Jr. not being at my basketball practice because he was missing,” Tyner said. “I remember it like it was yesterday. It was heightened fear at that time at school because a little kid was missing and that kind of thing didn’t just happen.”
Gary Sr., a retired Atlantic City police officer now living in Puerto Rico, has pushed the Prosecutor’s Office for years, hoping for some word on his son’s case.
“It does my heart good to see that there is some activity with the investigation,” he told BreakingAC after reading the prosecutor’s news release. “That is all I have ever asked for since the beginning.”
He and Tyner have been friends for years, he said.
“I felt deep down inside that when Damon Tyner went into that office something would finally be done,” Grant Sr. said. “My hat’s off to you Mr.Prosecutor. Now I can only pray that with the new technology available today, that was not available in the past, there just might be a break in the case.”
Are 911 calls a possible clue?
In 2016, Grant came across an audio recording from a 911 call made March 8, 1986, on what would have been Gary Jr.’s 10th birthday.
“Is it possible for me to collect a reward on my own self for the murder of Gary Grant?” the man asked.
Another recording from June 2, 1986 has a man telling a 911 operator the name of the alleged killer, saying “He told me he killed Gary Grant Jr. because of the father. The cops know what he looks like.”
The Prosecutor’s Office has those tapes, Grant Sr. told BreakingAC.
The only person ever publicly named as a suspect was Carl Mason, who was 12 at the time.
Mason, who went by “Boo,” was brought in as a possible witness but then began to implicate himself.
He was then read his rights, and gave a statement.
But a judge threw out the confession, saying police “trampled on (the boy’s) constitutional rights” by interviewing him without a guardian present.
Investigators have said Mason’s grandmother refused to sit in.
PROSECUTOR’S LIST OF FACTS
- Jan. 12, 1984, 7-year-old Gary Grant Jr. was at home with his mother, May Grant. He left around noon, and was told to be home by 4 p.m.
- Gary’s mother became worried when her son failed to return home at 4 p.m., knowing that being late was uncharacteristic. She went to two of his friends’ homes looking for him. Both said they were playing with him, but Gary Jr. left by 4:30 p.m., to head home.
- After searching for more than two hours, May called her estranged husband, Gary Grant Sr. He immediately took time off his night shift at the Atlantic City Police Department to search surrounding areas with other members of law enforcement. The search lasted until 2 a.m. Nobody was able to track Grant Jr.’s whereabouts.
- After learning of the disappearance, a property owner discovered Grant Jr.’s body on Saturday, Jan. 14, 1984, at Atlantic City’s 100 block of North California Avenue in an abandoned lot just two blocks from Gary Grant Jr.’s home.
- Investigation by members of the Atlantic City Police Department, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and Atlantic County Medical Examiner’s determined Grant Jr. was bludgeoned to death.