Originally created 07/12/97

Son missing since Easter, believed murdered



James Gramling, 20, walked out of his parents home, telling them he was going over to a friend's house and would call if he'd be late coming back.

"He hopped on his four-wheeler and headed up the street. That bike was his pride and joy," said Song Gramling, James' mother.

"He said that if Jeremy called, for us to tell him that he'd be at his house in five minutes," added Phillip Gramling, referring to one of his son's friends.

Mr. and Mrs. Gramling say they haven't seen or heard from their son since the evening of March 30 - Easter Sunday.

Mrs. Gramling still washes her son's bed sheets. She occasionally goes to his bedroom, thinking her nightmare is just that- a bad dream. She's hopeful he'll return home soon.

Richmond County Sheriff investigators aren't as encouraging.

"Technically the case is still classified as a missing persons case," said Chief Deputy Ronald Strength, "but officers are investigating it as a violent crime- as a homicide."

The only thing missing is a body. That has police baffled.

"We've used cadaver dogs out of Atlanta to search for the body on two different occasions. Our EMT divers have searched several ponds around here two different times. We've even put our helicopter up to do an aerial search," said Chief Deputy Strength. "But we're not going to give up."

Falling short of calling them murder suspects, Chief Deputy Strength said officers are targeting two Augusta men in their investigation. He would not name the men, saying the investigation is ongoing.

Foul play is suspected because James Gramling's 1997 Honda four-wheeler was found in a wooded area off Windsor Spring Road. It was covered in human blood, Chief Deputy Strength said. The manor in which James Gramling disappeared also leads investigators to believe he is dead.

"He didn't take any of his money, all of his clothes are in his room. He just bought a new stereo speaker, he didn't even hook it up to his stereo, he was going to do it when he got back. Now you tell me, if someone was going to run away from home, would they do all that?" cried Mrs. Gramling.

Mrs. Gramling and her son worked the graveyard shift together at President's Bakery. About 30 employees helped the Gramlings comb the woods in hopes of finding their son's body.

James Gramling was not without faults, said Mr. Gramling. He'd dropped out of school and was a poor reader. But both parents agreed that he wasn't capable of violence.

"James is not capable of hurting anyone, he's a mama's boy and he didn't like to fight," Mrs. Gramling said.

The Gramlings are offering a $1,000 reward to anyone with information regarding their son's whereabouts or that will lead to the arrest of whoever is responsible for his disappearance.

"I've been on my own since I was 8 years old. Then I got married to my husband, but I still felt that I had to make it on my own because he was in the military. My son was all I had; he was everything to me," said Mrs. Gramling. "Women have that fear that one day, their husbands might leave them. But you know your child will never leave you. Now my son is gone and I feel I have nothing left."