Previously in “Final Moments,” we witnessed the case of a 15-year-old teenager, Danielle Locklear, who was murdered by her boyfriend. In this episode of “Final Moments,” we will be looking into the case of Willard Grandstaff, who was murdered at the store he worked at. What is his story? Let’s find out.
In 2004, Willard Grandstaff was 24 years old and worked at a convenience store called Kangaroo Express in South Carolina. He was a hardworking individual who was very proud of his job. He was a cashier, but he also did the cleaning of the store and stocked the shelves. He took pride in knowing his customers by name, and he was very well-liked. According to his sister, he was very protective of his loved ones. His family described him as an introverted, shy guy. He had dreams of studying computer engineering and was saving up money for college. However, Willard’s life comes to a tragic end. On September 27, 2004, Willard Grandstaff was working overtime when two customers found him dead at the store. They called the police, who found out that Willard Grandstaff had been shot. Before he went to work that night, Willard Grandstaff’s best friend, Robert Cribb, had asked him not to go to work because he had a bad feeling about it. However, Willard assured him that he would call him around midnight to tell him that he was safe. When Willard did not call, Robert Cribb got concerned. It was too late for Willard. The police questioned the people who called 911 and noticed a .38 caliber shell casing lying on the floor. They also noticed that the display racks were turned over and that there were signs of struggle. The police wondered if Willard Grandstaff had a brawl with someone, but his family members described him as a non-violent individual.
The police then checked the surveillance footage of the store and discovered that two men had come into the store. They had masks on and were wandering in the store. Suddenly, Willard Grandstaff came into the picture, and the two of them started demanding money from him. Willard Grandstaff refused to give them any money, and one of them shot him in the head. The two of them then walked out of the store as if nothing had happened. The man who shot Willard Grandstaff had jumped over the counter to attack him, so the police were hoping for a palm print. However, it was impossible to get DNA since a lot of people visited the store that day. Upon investigating the murder, the police discovered that there had been another robbery attempt at the store where Willard refused to give money before he was killed. The police reviewed the tapes of that day, but the perpetrator did not match the description of either of the men who attacked Willard that day.
Weeks and months went by, and the case was becoming cold. The police were desperate for a lead. In hopes of finding possible leads, the police released the surveillance footage from the store to the media. However, many people were upset, including Willard’s loved ones, because they had to go through the emotions of losing someone close to them all over again. His best friend described seeing Willard on the news and said he cried and wished his friend was still with him. The case reached a dead end; however, in 2006, things started changing.
A person named Chris Ellis was arrested by Narcotics. He reached out to the authorities, saying he had significant information about Willard Grandstaff’s murder. He hoped for a lesser sentence by helping solve a murder mystery. The police sat down and heard him. He knew minute details about the case and even knew which gun had been used. To check whether he was telling the truth, Chris Ellis was polygraphed. However, he failed the polygraph test and was forced to come clean. He confessed that his cousin’s brother was also involved in the case, and he did not want to get his family into trouble. Chris Ellis told the police that Lamont Ellis was one of the masked men that day. According to the police, telling on your family is not an easy thing to do, so Chris’ statement seemed credible.
The question was, “Who was the shooter?” Well, it was Jaime Marrero. The physical features matched the two men in the video. However, they did not have enough evidence. Chris was asked to get rid of the gun by Jaime Marrero, so the police searched the area where the gun was disposed of. However, they did not find any guns. The investigators tried to make their case differently since there wasn’t a murder weapon. To see if Jamie Marrero would confess while the discussion was being taped, they asked Chris Ellis to phone him. The conversation was credible, and the police sat down with Lamont Ellis. Chris and Lamont’s stories matched, and the police arrested Lamont and Ellis. Further, the police talked to Jamie Marrero’s girlfriend, who told them that he had confessed the crime earlier to her. In 2008, Lamont was charged with robbery and assault and was sentenced to five years for conspiracy and ten years for assault. Meanwhile, Jamie was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder of Willard.