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reopen the murder case of lavon gramse

28 Signatures Goal: 100

FLINT, Michigan -- Lavon Gramse could sing like a bird. So when someone took the 24-year-old Flint woman's life with a rusty butcher knife on the city's east side on Fourth of July eve in 2001, no one raised much fuss. There was no public outcry. No big news splash. Just another killing in a city that would log 41 by year's end. The killer was arrested about three hours later, but the case was dismissed after it was decided she acted in self-defense. But Gramse's parents believe prosecutors took the easy way out and didn't press charges because her daughter was just another drug addict. Now, seven years later, they want the Genesee County prosecutor's office to rethink that decision. "She was a human being who didn't deserve to die the way she did," said her father, Von Robinson. Her mother, Lawanda Gramse, knows full well how drug addicts are viewed by those outside the life. Gramse, 49, spent the better part of 20 years inside of a crack pipe after her 3-year-old son, Lance, died in a 1985 Christmas Day fire in Flint. "I smoked to live, and I lived to smoke," she said. Gramse's downward spiral landed her in prison two years ago, where would she came face to face with her daughter's killer in the exercise yard. what was she in prison for is the supposed killer still in prison "She said she didn't mean to kill 'Von and that she loved her," said Gramse. Gramse said the killer claimed Lavon hit her with a hammer and that she fought back with the knife. But Gramse said a woman who witnessed the killing -- who also was in prison with Gramse -- said she was never questioned by police about the slaying and that Lavon never swung a hammer. When Gramse obtained a 12-page police report on the slaying from Flint police, she found no mention of that alleged witness. According to the police report, investigators were told that Lavon Gramse confronted the killer about spreading rumors about her aunt, and the two exchanged punches before the killer allegedly made five or six stabbing motions toward Gramse, who collapsed on the porch. No matter what happened the night her daughter was killed, Lawanda Gramse said it should be up to a jury to decide whether the killer is telling the truth. But unless Flint police bring new evidence forward, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said there would be no reason to review the case. Leyton, who was not the prosecutor at the time of the slaying, said the question of self-defense comes down to the reasonable belief that someone was in mortal danger. The Journal could not reach Leyton's predecessor, Arthur A. Busch, for comment on the case. The head of Flint's detective bureau referred questions on the case to the lead investigator, who also could not be reached by The Journal. Lavon Gramse's parents said they aren't going to go away quietly. Lawanda Gramse has asked the state attorney general's office to intervene and said she will continue to make appeals to anyone who will listen. "Somewhere, somebody made a mistake," she said. Robinson, 51, who now lives in Texas, just wants justice. "My daughter was a human being. ... I don't care what her lifestyle was," he said. "They basically let (the killer) off scot-free. It was almost like (Lavon) never existed."

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