ROOMMATES’ FEUD ENDED IN DEATHS — (The State)

Original article no longer available

The State (Columbia, SC)

Author: CLIF LeBLANC, Staff Writer

July 16, 1993

SUSPECT HAS HISTORY OF MENTAL PROBLEMS
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They were computer analysts thrown together by a job assignment in Columbia and the need to share living expenses. Their mundane, 47-day relationship turned deadly Wednesday.

A roommate with a history of mental troubles killed Dan Gronda, his wife, Georgia, and their pet black Labrador with an assault rifle, authorities allege. The dog, chased around the apartment, died at its master’s side, the roommates’ landlady said.

The violence exploded largely over the dog being in the two-bedroom apartment at Windsor Lake Plantation in northeast Columbia, authorities said.

Dan Gronda and Bobby Dennis Kelly moved in May 28. The argument over Gronda’s wife and dog visiting began a week ago, said Kellie Walters, manager of the year-old complex.

Kelly, 49, is being held on two murder charges and is awaiting a psychiatric evaluation at the State Hospital.

He told authorities he had been committed to mental hospitals in Georgia, including once for attempting suicide, said 5th Circuit Solicitor Dick Harpootlian at a hearing Thursday afternoon.

Kelly also had a prescription for Prozac, a controversial antidepressant used by an estimated 8 million people.

Prozac’s critics link it to violent behavior and suicide. Its backers say it’s effective and relieves bulimia, panic, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other conditions.

Prozac was found in the apartment, but neither the Richland County Sheriff’s Department nor the prosecution linked the drug to the shooting.

Harpootlian said Kelly has asked to be committed because he worries he might try to take his life again.

Kelly’s temporary defense attorney, Frank Draper of the public defender’s office, said mental illness might be a defense. But Draper said that determination would not be made until the psychiatric evaluation is complete. Kelly, who Harpootlian said has $10,000 in the bank, invoked his right to an attorney but had not hired one by Thursday afternoon.

Harpootlian said Kelly does not have a criminal record.

In court Thursday, Kelly sat barefoot and silent for 20 minutes waiting for the five-minute hearing to start.

Wearing the bright orange uniform of the county jail, he stared into his lap, moving only once. He did not speak while Circuit Judge Carol Connor heard the case. She delayed setting bond with the agreement of his defense attorney.

Meanwhile, the U.S. attorney’s office is trying to trace the AR-15 found in the living room in an effort to determine whether there is a federal weapons violation. It is a civilian version of the military M-16.

That kind of rifle is legal and manufactured to fire semiautomatically. The bodies were in the kitchen of Apartment 414, investigators said. Authorities say they don’t know where the gunman got the rifle.

Fred Riddle, chief deputy at the Sheriff’s Department, said investigators do not know how many shots were fired nor the number of wounds. Autopsies were under way Thursday on the couple and the dog, Riddle said. No results were available Thursday evening.

Kelly walked into Sheriff’s Department headquarters about 8 p.m. and said two people and a dog had been shot at the apartment. Harpootlian said in court that Kelly confessed.

Riddle said Kelly quickly invoked his right against self-incrimination.

Walters, the apartment complex manager, said Gronda and Kelly began arguing Friday about the impending visit and who had greater authority over the apartment. Kelly had signed the lease, but they divided the $600 rent equally, she said.

Gronda offered to rent a smaller apartment if Kelly would refund $158.33, half of Gronda’s portion of the monthly rent.

Kelly refused, according to Walters, and Gronda could not afford another place without the refund. “And it’s ruined his life and his (Gronda’s) family’s — over that!” Walters said.

“I’ve been dealing with them for about four days over this issue,” she said, explaining that Gronda came to her once and Kelly about five times. Even Georgia Gronda called from Virginia Beach, Va., where she lived, to complain about Kelly.

“I told them it was a roommate issue and that I could not referee. By Monday and Tuesday, they weren’t talking to each other.”

She said Kelly never appeared angry, merely inquired about his legal rights. “He was always calm. Made eye contact with you, never nervous.”

Kelly at first did not object to the visit, but later complained mostly about the dog. He told Walters he did not like dogs, was concerned “the dog might snap at him” and wanted it put in a kennel.

Georgia Gronda arrived at the apartment just hours before the shooting, Walters said. She had been there only once before, helping her husband move in. Investigators say she was moving in permanently, but Walters said she understood the visit was to last only through the weekend.

The landlady said both men were sent to Columbia by T.M. Floyd, a computer company in the Atlanta area. The company did not return a phone call Thursday.

Caption:
Photo, color
Caption:
Bobby Dennis Kelly is charged in killings.
Memo:  Related Story, 8A
Edition:  FINAL
Section:  METRO/REGION
Page:  1A
Index Terms: SHOOTING DEATH CRIME MURDER FATAL WEAPON
Record Number:  9301210792