Death of a family: Gerri Moss recalls '98 murders of son, daughter and husband
As told to Joe Kovac Jr.
Editor's note: A version of this story, told in the words of Gerri Ann Moss, originally appeared in The Telegraph in September 2010 before convicted killer Brandon Joseph Rhode was put to death for the 1998 slayings of Moss's 11-year-old son Bryan and her 15-year-old daughter Kristin. Moss's husband and the children's father, 37-year-old Steven Moss, was also killed after Rhode and Lucas broke into the family's home on Griswoldville Road. Now on the eve of the execution of Daniel Lucas, Rhode's accomplice in the Jones County murders, Gerri Moss's words remain as powerful as they were nearly six years ago.
The execution brings it all up again, opens up the wounds that have tried to heal.
Still, I'm glad the justice system is doing its job.
Even though I moved home to California three years ago, I've had friends willing to put up money to fly me back to Georgia. I've toyed with the idea over the years of viewing the execution. I don't. I just don't think I could sit and watch another life be taken.
I still can't wrap my mind around it. It's been less than a week that I've been informed that this is going to actually happen. I really haven't had time to sit and think about what I'll actually do.
I have not in my life contributed to this world 1 percent of what my children wanted to do with theirs. They invited and brought people, friends, to the Lord. They were involved in church. They brought me in and, ultimately, brought their father, Steven, to church to be saved. They were forces of nature. They knew from a very young age the impact one person can make. They were senselessly taken away, as were their untold futures and the impact they would have made.
There never will be closure. I won't have my grandkids. I won't have my future. I'll deal with the repercussions until they place me in Middle Georgia Memory Gardens next to my family.
My 8-year-old son and I are very close. I'm thankful to have him. His father and I are divorced. It was a very short-lived relationship. Now I have my son to care for, and he's aware of the legacy of his big brother and sister. He calls Steve -- Kristin and Bryan's father -- his Uncle Steve. Of course, he's too young to understand it all. He sees his mom go through good days and bad days. I don't burden him with it.
Some of the best days have been the last couple of days with the outpouring of love and all the friends from Georgia reaching out to me and asking me what they can do. They say things like, "I love you, Miss Gerri."
My strong faith in the Lord saw me through at the trial.
I knew my family was in a very safe place and that I would be reunited with them one day. I instructed all the people who came to court with me each day that if they couldn't conduct themselves in a Christian-like fashion that they didn't need to come. We reached out to the defendants' families.
It was the irreversible decisions of Brandon Rhode and Daniel Lucas that caused this. Everybody else is victims -- their families, my family, their friends. Everyone else is a victim in this with the exception of the two who made the decision. I do have compassion for their families.
I've given it some thought over the last couple of days, and really what it comes down to is that I had no say the day or hour prior to what happened at our house on April 23, 1998.
I made the decision to see this thing through. I attended each one of the hearings, the jury selection. Anything I could attend, I did. I did it in honor of my family. I felt that once the trials were over and the decision was made that my job was done.
The district attorney did his job, the judge did his job, the jury did their job. It's been sent to the State Court, it's been sent to the Supreme Court. I respect every step of the way it has been, and I stand by their decision.
And Fred Bright, the DA, the prosecutor, from the moment I met him, has always been as honest and frank and candid and loving and caring as any human being that I've ever met. I have the utmost respect for the man. He's seen it all. There's several people who've done horrific things that he's put on death row. The way he conducts himself in court is in the most professional manner, and then when he has you sitting there one-on-one as a human being, there's not a more compassionate, understanding, honest man on this earth.
If they only knew
A motorcycle accident or a suicide is different from a murder.
It's still a death but the circumstances are different.
People don't know what to say or how to react. One of my big pet peeves was platitudes, people saying, "Oh, I can imagine what you feel like," or, "God needed some flowers for his garden in heaven," or, "I don't know how you're still walking around," and, "If it was me I would have committed suicide," or, "Have you checked into an insane asylum?"
If they only knew how it felt hearing it.
The only thing that you can tell somebody that's gone through this -- and unless it's happened to you directly and you can honestly say, "I know what it feels like" -- all you have to offer that person is, "I love you. I support you. I'll help you, and I'll be here for anything that you need."
Somebody that's going through the immediate grief is not going to say to anyone, "I need help." They're gonna sit there and wallow and waste away. You have to have a friend like I did. Her name's Tara -- Tara Floyd. She gave up her life, time away from her husband and young children to be with me.
She'd call up every day and say, "Are you out of bed?"
I'd say, "No, why?"
"Well," she'd say, "you know, because you need to be."
Other times she'd call and ask, "Have you showered today?"
It was baby steps until she got me to leave the house and go out to breakfast, and more baby steps until she got me to go shopping. Some days Tara stood there at my door and she knocked and knocked and hollered until I came. She let me know, "I'm not going away. I'm not leaving you."
That's the true meaning of somebody that really loves you.
Nice to hear kind words
Kristin Deanne was pretty, popular, smart and athletic.
She was well-rounded.
She'd planned on being in the Miss Jones County Pageant.
She was elected freshman-class secretary at Jones County High. Classmates voted her "Most Likely to Succeed." She would have graduated with the class of 2001.
She played softball.
She was a leader.
This isn't just their proud Mom's point of view.
Her science teacher, Mrs. Weldon, said Kristin was always involved, an "A" student in her science class. She said everybody wanted to be in Kristin's quiz group.
Bryan James, like his sister, made an impression on folks.
He was a fifth-grader at Mattie Wells Elementary and a well-mannered boy. He was popular, made good grades. He liked baseball, football, riding go-carts.
Mrs. Warren, his school counselor, told me he was mature for his age, that students and teachers alike thought highly of him. She said he was polite, too, and just always smiling.
So, see, this isn't just their proud Mom's point of view. This is from their friends, from those who spent their days with them.
It's nice to hear kind words about your children.
I felt guilty leaving
I left Georgia in February 2007.
I shipped everything ahead of time. Then I brought my son, my cat and whatever else fit in the Jeep and we drove across the country and had an adventure.
The minute I crossed the Georgia state line into Alabama, I was torn. I knew I was leaving behind a lot of very, very good friends. But I also knew that I was coming out and I was going to try to provide a good family and place for my son. I desperately wanted the feeling of family again.
I live halfway between L.A. and San Diego now. My mom's in San Diego. My dad's in L.A. I found a cheap little inexpensive place in the high desert.
It's been almost 30 years since I met Steven out here -- on Van Nuys Boulevard, cruise night. He was from Georgia, from Swainsboro. He'd been in the Army. We got married out here in 1982. Our children were born here. Then we moved East.
When I came back here, I felt guilty leaving Steven and Bryan and Kristin. But I knew they weren't there anymore. I knew I was just leaving their bodies and their headstones.
My last day in Georgia, I went and I picked up some things to decorate the headstones.
I took WD-40 and a rag.
I wanted to make sure the headstones were all polished and shiny.
I trimmed the weeds and cut the grass.
I sat in front of each one and had a long conversation with them.
They told me, "It's OK, Mom, go. We're not here anymore. We'll always be with you in your heart."
April 23, 1998
It was a Thursday afternoon. Gerri Ann Moss arrived home from work and found the bodies of her slain family. Her son Bryan, 11, daughter Kristin, 15, and husband Steven, 37, had, in that order, been shot and killed as they returned home, one at a time, from school and work, by a pair of teenage burglars-turned-killers who were inside the family's Griswoldville Road residence in south Jones County. Two young men were convicted of the crimes. Brandon Joseph Rhode was, at age 31, executed by lethal injection in September 2010. Daniel Anthony Lucas, now 36 and on Georgia's death row, is scheduled to be executed Wednesday night.
Read more here: http://www.macon.com/news/local/crime/article73953032.html#storylink=cpy