News

Harvard Law School Makes Online Zero-L Course Free for All U.S. Law Schools Due to Coronavirus

News

For Kennedy School Fellows, Epstein-Linked Donors Present a Moral Dilemma

News

Tenants Grapple with High Rents and Local Turnover at Asana-Owned Properties

News

In April, Theft Surged as Cambridge Residents Stayed at Home

News

The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Faculty Rescinds Early Admit of Student Who Killed Mother in 1990

Tale of a New Life

By Sewell Chan

Orphaned at the age of 14 and having survived the deaths of two alcoholic parents, Gina Grant came to Cambridge in the fall of 1991 to begin life anew.

By all accounts she succeeded. A top student at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, Grant excelled on the school's science and tennis teams. Her success story--including her early-action acceptance to Harvard--made her the focus of a story about children who have persevered in Sunday's Boston Globe Magazine.

But that is where new troubles began for the 19-year-old senior.

Over the course of four days this week anonymous packages arrived at Grant's high school, the Harvard admissions office and the Boston Globe containing newspaper clippings about Grant's involvement in the September 1990 murder of her mother inSouth Carolina.

The Harvard admissions office rescinded heracceptance on Wednesday following a vote by theFaculty Standing Committee on Admissions andFinancial Aid.

But friends, supporters and neighbors of Grantdescribed her in interviews yesterday as anexceptional young woman struggling to over comepast abuse by alcoholic parents.

"I deal with this tragedy every day on apersonal level," Grant said in a statement throughher lawyer. "It serves no good purpose for anyoneelse to dredge up the pain of my childhood. Inaddition, I have no wish to defame my mother'smemory by detailing any abuse."

But it was that abuse, several sources close tothe South Carolina case say, that drove Grant tocommit an act she has since tried to put behindher.

"She has had to overcome much more than theaverage student," said a high school friend ofGrant's who declined to give his name. But theRindge and Latin senior said Grant did not try todraw attention to herself. "I don't think she wasinterested in gaining anybody's pity," he said.Grant did not tell her peers or teachers at theschool about killing her mother.

Grant's attorneys and others familiar with herpast in South Carolina described her actions asthe result of years of emotional abuse.

Both of Grant's parents were alcoholic. In 1987her father died of cancer, and her motherincreased a barrage of verbal abuse against Grant,then an honors student at the Lexington MiddleSchool in Lexington, S.C, according topsychiatrists and attorneys who worked on her casethere.

Grant's home life became worse after her oldersister Dana moved out, according to Grant's lawyerin the 1991 murder trial, Jack B. Swerling.

"Gina sort of became the object of Mom'sfrustrations," Swerling said. "She was the victimof an alcoholic mother who inflicted emotional andpsychological damage."

Dr. Harold C. Morgan, who was hired by Swerlingto perform a psychiatric evaluation of Grantduring the trial, agreed.

"It's not uncommon for a youngster who hasexperienced a lot of physical and emotional abuseto react to that sooner or later with an outburstof violence," the psychiatrist said. "She surelydid not have a major mental illness and was notinsane. Her behavior was related to the kind ofenvironmental and emotional stresses she hadsuffered over the years."

Although the state contended that Grant killedher mother, Dorothy Mayfield, after an argumentover her relationship with a boyfriend, Swerlingargues she acted in self-defense.

"When it happened there was a threat of harm toher," he said. "She was in danger from her mom."

After pleading no contest to voluntarymanslaughter, Grant served time in a juvenilecorrections center before being allowed to move inwith her uncle and aunt in Cambridge. After adisagreement with them, however, she moved into anapartment in North Cambridge.

Although several students at Rindge and Latinyesterday refused to comment on Grant, the friendcriticized Harvard's decision to rescind heracceptance.

"This was clearly an event from a long time agothat has no bearing on her academic life," thefriend said.

"What happened is obviously not a good thing,"the friend added. "At the same time there arereasons why [murders] occur. A child does not killa parent for a petty reason."

"She is one of the most extraordinary peopleI've ever met," said John P. Case '66, the fatherof Grant's boyfriend Liam, also a student atRindge and Latin. "She's an extraordinarily strongindividual."

Case said he has been upset by intense mediacoverage. "I believe Gina's entitled to herprivacy, like all of us, " he commented.

Grant's neighbors gave mixed account of herbehavior.

Jeremy Atkins, who lives downstairs from Grantin an 8-unit Chester Street apartment building,said "she was a very rude person."

"She was a personal slob," Atkins said. "Shewas irresponsible with the rent, she would leavetrash all over the place," said the 28-year-oldsoftware designer.

"She was sort of a manipulative kid," Atkinssaid. "She talked about how her parents were deadand how she was an orphan."

Other neighbors gave different descriptions.

"She's a very nice kid," said Margaret M.Howley, a neighbor of Alan and Carol Bennett,Grant's uncle and aunt.

"I thought Harvard would be another step infulfilling her dreams," said Swerling, thecriminal defense attorney. "I've been around a lotof bad people in my life. This girl is good."

Jeffrey N. Gell contributed to the reportingof this article.

The Harvard admissions office rescinded heracceptance on Wednesday following a vote by theFaculty Standing Committee on Admissions andFinancial Aid.

But friends, supporters and neighbors of Grantdescribed her in interviews yesterday as anexceptional young woman struggling to over comepast abuse by alcoholic parents.

"I deal with this tragedy every day on apersonal level," Grant said in a statement throughher lawyer. "It serves no good purpose for anyoneelse to dredge up the pain of my childhood. Inaddition, I have no wish to defame my mother'smemory by detailing any abuse."

But it was that abuse, several sources close tothe South Carolina case say, that drove Grant tocommit an act she has since tried to put behindher.

"She has had to overcome much more than theaverage student," said a high school friend ofGrant's who declined to give his name. But theRindge and Latin senior said Grant did not try todraw attention to herself. "I don't think she wasinterested in gaining anybody's pity," he said.Grant did not tell her peers or teachers at theschool about killing her mother.

Grant's attorneys and others familiar with herpast in South Carolina described her actions asthe result of years of emotional abuse.

Both of Grant's parents were alcoholic. In 1987her father died of cancer, and her motherincreased a barrage of verbal abuse against Grant,then an honors student at the Lexington MiddleSchool in Lexington, S.C, according topsychiatrists and attorneys who worked on her casethere.

Grant's home life became worse after her oldersister Dana moved out, according to Grant's lawyerin the 1991 murder trial, Jack B. Swerling.

"Gina sort of became the object of Mom'sfrustrations," Swerling said. "She was the victimof an alcoholic mother who inflicted emotional andpsychological damage."

Dr. Harold C. Morgan, who was hired by Swerlingto perform a psychiatric evaluation of Grantduring the trial, agreed.

"It's not uncommon for a youngster who hasexperienced a lot of physical and emotional abuseto react to that sooner or later with an outburstof violence," the psychiatrist said. "She surelydid not have a major mental illness and was notinsane. Her behavior was related to the kind ofenvironmental and emotional stresses she hadsuffered over the years."

Although the state contended that Grant killedher mother, Dorothy Mayfield, after an argumentover her relationship with a boyfriend, Swerlingargues she acted in self-defense.

"When it happened there was a threat of harm toher," he said. "She was in danger from her mom."

After pleading no contest to voluntarymanslaughter, Grant served time in a juvenilecorrections center before being allowed to move inwith her uncle and aunt in Cambridge. After adisagreement with them, however, she moved into anapartment in North Cambridge.

Although several students at Rindge and Latinyesterday refused to comment on Grant, the friendcriticized Harvard's decision to rescind heracceptance.

"This was clearly an event from a long time agothat has no bearing on her academic life," thefriend said.

"What happened is obviously not a good thing,"the friend added. "At the same time there arereasons why [murders] occur. A child does not killa parent for a petty reason."

"She is one of the most extraordinary peopleI've ever met," said John P. Case '66, the fatherof Grant's boyfriend Liam, also a student atRindge and Latin. "She's an extraordinarily strongindividual."

Case said he has been upset by intense mediacoverage. "I believe Gina's entitled to herprivacy, like all of us, " he commented.

Grant's neighbors gave mixed account of herbehavior.

Jeremy Atkins, who lives downstairs from Grantin an 8-unit Chester Street apartment building,said "she was a very rude person."

"She was a personal slob," Atkins said. "Shewas irresponsible with the rent, she would leavetrash all over the place," said the 28-year-oldsoftware designer.

"She was sort of a manipulative kid," Atkinssaid. "She talked about how her parents were deadand how she was an orphan."

Other neighbors gave different descriptions.

"She's a very nice kid," said Margaret M.Howley, a neighbor of Alan and Carol Bennett,Grant's uncle and aunt.

"I thought Harvard would be another step infulfilling her dreams," said Swerling, thecriminal defense attorney. "I've been around a lotof bad people in my life. This girl is good."

Jeffrey N. Gell contributed to the reportingof this article.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags