As the families of Lawrence and Shelly Gross navigate the hard-to-take realities of the couple who lost their lives in search of a memorable 5th wedding anniversary, both families have already resolved on the final resting places of the deceased. Having come from Minnesota to spend some time with relatives, destiny will finally take them to Johnsonville graveyard, outside Monrovia.
The two families, a close source indicated, are expected to sit at a roundtable today to discuss funeral arrangements for the deceased. “The burial site has already been identified and some relatives were charged yesterday to secure and prepare the site in the Johnsonville community,” a close family source indicated.
“There is a planned meeting for the two families to finalize the funeral arrangements. The date, time and venue will be decided at this meeting,” the source said, but feared there would be much tension when the meeting convenes today.
Great expectations gone bad
Lawrence and Shelly K. Gross didn’t have any clue what could have befallen them when they unanimously agreed to leave their comfortable life, children and friends in Minnesota in the United States to come back home to spend their 5th wedding anniversary and the festive season.
In less than three days after their arrival, an unbelievable tragedy that they both could never recover from, struck them. They were found lifeless on the floor of their room in the Chocolate City community in Gardnersville on Christmas morning, the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, which brought total shock to the community.
The cause of their deaths has been attributed to generator smoke (carbon monoxide). The unfortunate event happened at the family residence of one Kemah Larkamah (Shelly’s aunt). Aside from the carbon monoxide theory, there have been a lot of accounts emerging since the incident, with one pointing to food poisoning and another to witchcraft activity or spiritual attacks.
The unfortunate situation occurred after a late dinner at Lawrence’s brother Lewis’s residence, a little distance down the road in the same Chocolate City community. Many are of the belief that the couple was poisoned at that dinner. Sources indicate that Lewis owed the couple US$40,000 for transactions he had done on their behalf here over the years.
Lewis reportedly owns a large generator that supplies electricity to many in the Chocolate City community.
A family member, who asked not to be named, indicated that Lawrence was very close to Lewis and whenever he (Lawrence) came down he was hosted by his brother. Lawrence had invested hugely in his brother over the years.
“Because Lawrence came down with his wife this time around, they decided to lodge with his wife’s family and this is their first time doing so,” the family member said.
The couple arrived in Liberia on Friday December 23 and decided to stay with Kemah Larkamah, Shelly’s mother’s younger sister and wife of the United Methodist prelate, Rev. Charles Larkamah, Pastor of the Mount Sinai United Methodist Church. Kemah also reared Shelly.
It is reported that the day after the couple arrived, they were invited to dinner at Lewis’ house. Upon the couple’s arrival there a little after 8pm, a cousin of Shelly’s (name withheld) who had driven the couple to the place in his mother’s (Kemah) car, was reportedly stopped by security officers from entering Lewis’ fence, thereby ushering in only the couple – a move that raised a little suspicion from the couple but was not expressed.
“My brother said that he had to wait in the car for over two hours. Lawrence and Shelly finally came out few minutes past 11pm and that was how they proceeded home. We had no idea what might have transpired there,” an inner family source told the Daily Observer. “Why did they stop the boy from entering the fence? This is the question that is holding Lewis and his family by the throat because they can’t provide any justification,” she said.
Though there were eight persons who slept in the house that night, Lawrence and his wife were fatalities of the alleged carbon monoxide incident. The aunt and her husband were also discovered unconscious and sent to hospital immediately. Lawrence and Shelly were given the master bedroom that belonged to her aunt. The room is located further down the corridor from the front of the house, where the garage, which houses the generator, is located.
“The people are saying that it is generator smoke, but why is it only Shelly and her husband that were killed when we were eight that slept in the house? Their room is even farther away than any one of us. I had my niece sleep right here and nothing happened to her,” Aunty Kemah was heard telling visitors at her house yesterday.
“The government has said it is carbon monoxide and we are powerless and nothing we can do, but God is in heaven and he knows what happened here. He will fight for us,” she said, adding “upon the arrival of the autopsy team here, they had not even begun their work when they even started mentioning generator smoke. This clearly indicates that this was premeditated.”
Accusations and Counteraccusations
As a result of the Grosses’ death, tension is currently soaring between the two families as one accuses the other of being responsible for the tragedy. “There is an intense rift between the two families now and it is unfortunate that Lawrence’s family, according to people, is accusing us of being responsible for these deaths though they had their last visit and food for that day at his brother’s place,” the family source said.
The situation has reportedly brought about a deep seated hatred between the two families. “They are not currently in touch with each other, especially during such a difficult period. This may just go a long way because this incident has placed both families in difficult positions—looking at each other with suspicion,” she said.
Liberia National Police has since launched an investigation to ascertain the cause of death. LNP preliminary findings pointed to the inhaling of carbon monoxide. This was further reinforced by a recently concluded autopsy report, but both families are finding it difficult to accept.
Members of the Larkamah family indicated that some unscrupulous community residents burst into their home and started looting some valuables after the couple was discovered dead. “When the thing happened, it is so unfortunate that people from within the community started stealing from the house. Phones and other valuables were taken,” the source said.
“They had come to reconnect with families, celebrate their wedding anniversary and check on their businesses in Liberia. But we were shocked to see the two dead with foam coming from their mouths,” a neighbor said, dismissing the carbon monoxide theory.