Father's fatal violence puzzles family, friends

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COMMERCE, Ga. -- A 36-year-old Commerce man who shot and killed his two sons then himself Monday faced serious legal problems, but family members didn't see any sign he was desperate enough to hurt his children.

Keith Jermaine Gresham shot his sons, then himself, police say  Morris News Service
Morris News Service
Keith Jermaine Gresham shot his sons, then himself, police say

Authorities say Keith Jermaine Gresham shot and killed 4-year-old Keionte Gresham and 7-year-old Keion Gresham before killing himself.

"We've got a lot of questions with no answers," said Betty Watson, Gresham's older cousin who helped raise him.

Gresham was scheduled to appear in Jackson County Superior Court on Monday afternoon for a probation revocation hearing.

Family members found his body and the bodies of his sons about 5:30 p.m. Sheriff's office investigators believe they died sometime between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., said David Cochran, chief deputy of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

Gresham was serving 10 years probation for a 2006 conviction on drug trafficking charges. He pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and served 12 months in I.W. Davis Detention Center.

Prosecutors were attempting to revoke his probation because he had been charged with aggravated stalking in Oglethorpe County and misdemeanor marijuana possession in Jackson County.

Gresham and the boys' mother, Catrina Doster, had been separated for at least a year.

A Jackson County judge granted Doster a 12-month restraining order against Gresham in 2008 and a second 12-month restraining order in October 2009 requiring him to stay 500 yards away from her and her children, according to documents filed in the Jackson County court clerk's office.

However, she allowed Gresham to visit with the children this weekend in advance of his probation revocation hearing, Cochran said.

But when he didn't return the children, Doster, who lives outside of Jackson County, filed an interference with custody complaint with the Commerce Police Department on

Monday morning.

Authorities called Watson to try to find Gresham, and she went to his house in Commerce after she got off work Monday. He and the boys were missing, along with Gresham's car, she said.

Watson's brother, who lives on Old Wood's Bridge Road, told her that he had heard shots in the woods earlier in the day but hadn't thought anything of it. They searched an area of the woods accessible by car and found Gresham and the boys in his car, Watson said.

Watson described her cousin as a devoted father who saw his children as often as he could.

"Keith has always been a good dad," she said. "Nobody could separate him from his children. Even when he and Catrina split up, he still went to see his kids."

Before this weekend, he had not seen his sons for two months because of the retraining order and other legal issues, Watson said.

In addition to the restraining orders, Doster had filed multiple complaints of domestic violence in Jackson and Oglethorpe counties.

"I've told him that I am not coming back to his residence," Doster wrote in her first application for a protective order in 2008. "He will not accept it. When he hears what he doesn't want to hear, he gets angry and upset ... I just fear for my life. He's threatened me too many times to take a chance with my life."

Despite the judge's initial order that Gresham stay away from her, he still had joint custody in 2008 and picked the children up from a baby sitter almost every Friday afternoon. Doster had made plans for the older son to move in with Gresham so that he could enroll in Commerce City Schools.

She renewed the restraining order and expanded it to include the children in fall 2009 after Gresham grabbed one of the boys off of the field during a pee-wee football game and left the ball park. Doster had to call the police because he refused to return the boy, according to her statement.

Sheriff's investigators are continuing their investigation, but they don't believe anyone else is involved with the shooting, Cochran said.

"Today we will follow up on some phone records and text messages, just to document our investigation," he said.

Sheriff's deputies are not releasing Doster's home county out of concern for her security, Cochran said.

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ZenoElia 05/05/10 - 08:18 am
Likely the mother suffers

Likely the mother suffers from an abuse cycle and has not come to grips w it...she needs a shrink and group therapy...too little too late I'm afraid...

corgimom 05/05/10 - 10:38 am
"Prosecutors were attempting

"Prosecutors were attempting to revoke his probation because he had been charged with aggravated stalking in Oglethorpe County and misdemeanor marijuana possession in Jackson County."

There's the problem right there. Why wasn't he in jail?

anotherlook 05/05/10 - 02:49 pm
First of all, I'd like to

First of all, I'd like to extend my sincere sympathy and condolences to the families who must be suffering the pain of this terrible tragedy. But I must say that ZenoElia, I absolutely agree with your assessment that the mother is caught in the cycle of violence and I also agree with your recommendations that she seek both counseling and group therapy. I believe that though it may be too late for her young sons, seeking treatment and support will be her only route to healing, relief from the enormous guilt and freedom from the self-recrimination that she must feel. And Corgi, you are right. The Sheriff's department should have held him without bond due to the fact that: (1) the restraining order was still in place; and (2) under Georgia State Family Violence Laws an aggravated stalking charge which is in violation of an Order of Protection dictates that the offender be held without bond. I can't really determine from the information contained in the article whether or not this was a case in which the Sheriff's department didn't take the threat seriously and did not try to protect her. I think without all the facts no one should make such a rash judgement. As a former Family Violence Prevention Advocate, I can say with certainty that this type of loss will create a great void in the lives of everyone whose lives were touched by this tragedy. May God comfort and keep them all.

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