Henry Granju and Johnia Berry

I haven’t said anything about the death of Henry Granju because I don’t know what to say, but the parallels with Johnia Berry’s murder have crossed my mind. They both died tragically young in violent deaths where the attackers were on drugs or motivated by drugs.

The parallels crossed Michael’s mind, too: “Katie should hook up with Les Jones, who knows a thing or two about advocating for a murder investigation.”

The main way I helped in that case was to create a blog for organizing information and getting news out. Katie Granju is an ace blogger who works in media relations for a living, so she doesn’t need my help there.

One goal of the blog was to keep attention on the case in hopes that someone with information about the murder would step forward. Unlike the Johnia Berry case, I’m not sure there’s a mystery about what happened to Henry. From the news reports it seems they know which friends he was with that day and even the names of the suspected assailants. This doesn’t look like a whodunit.

Here’s the problem as the case stands today. The police have had those names for over a month. As of May 26th the police still hadn’t questioned some of the people known to have been present. At that time the investigator said that if he couldn’t talk to Henry then “there is no victim.”

Even now that Henry’s dead, the sheriff’s office hasn’t committed themselves, saying “The preliminary investigation shows no evidence that his death was the result of a homicide or from the injuries he may have received from an assault.”

Granted, there’s a very legitimate question about how much of Henry’s condition was due to the assault, how much was due to the methadone his friends gave him later that night (his condition was one known to be caused by drug overdoses), and how much was due to his friends failing to seek medical attention until the next day when they discovered he was unresponsive.

It’s also true that any police department has limited resources and if they don’t call it a murder they don’t have to investigate it as a murder. I’d expect the police’s first reaction would be to view this as a drug deal gone bad, not as an assault on someone’s son that eventually led to his death. (It’s both.) It will take time and persistence to shift their opinions. Even if the DA doesn’t pursue murder charges there’s no doubt the assailants could be charged with felony assault and should be caught and prosecuted.

There’s one thing I would suggest for the Granju family. Talk to Johnia Berry’s mother, Joan. She’s a great lady, and she knows what it’s like to lose a young child to violence. She also knows the frustration of working with law enforcement, which never seems to move quickly enough.

Joan learned how to navigate the media, the Knoxville sheriff’s office, and the political establishment. So much so that the investigation stayed on track for years despite the death of the original investigator, the killer was caught and his DNA positively matched, and there is now a DNA collection law in Tennessee named after Johnia Berry.

You need political pressure to keep attention and resources on a murder investigation, particularly after some time has passed. It would be nice to think this could be resolved quickly, but it’s best to be prepared to spend years with the investigation and trial.

UPDATE: Katie has a post on her frustration with the investigation.


There will be a service this Saturday at 10:00. The family is putting together a memorial fund in Henry’s name to help other families pay for drug and alcohol treatment for their children. Details of the service and memorial fund at Katie’s blog.

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7 Responses to Henry Granju and Johnia Berry

  1. Pingback: A Blog Memory Album of Henry

  2. Lara says:

    It’s also good if the Granjus can be given the name of a Victims/Witness Coordinator within the DA’s office (or however it’s meted out now.)

    The state is not legally bound to protect the victim – the DA’s office is there to protect the law. A V/WC is there to guide the family though the ordeal – and I don’t think a charge needs to be in place as long as an investigation is underway.

  3. Pingback: mamapundit » Blog Archive » Disappointing

  4. Alesa says:

    Les, I was thinking about the parallels last night. Glad to see you blogging about this. I don’t know the family personally, but I have known of them for a loooong time. I could not get Henry’s face out of my head all last night after learning about this yesterday. Unimaginable.

  5. ReaganSmith says:

    I submitted this SAME thought on Knox News. I see so many parallels between the Johnia Berry case and this case already.

    People need to speak out, call the KCSO, write the KCSO, and contact the media. Henry needs justice. Let’s NOT let what happened to the beautiful Johnia happen again. (With poor KCSO work).

  6. Pingback: In Which I Ask, “How Is Beating Someone With A Tire Iron Not A Criminal and Arrest-Worthy Act?” – More on the Henry Granju Case « The Lynnster Zone

  7. dee says:

    Please see http://justiceforhenry.com/ for the latest info. This is not over and the Granju’s need our continued support. Also, contact news and media sources. I was able to forward the website and basic info to 5 media sources in under 20 min.