By SHANNON WILLIAMS
“I used to think that things like this didn’t happen in America. I went to trial thinking I would get some type of justice and a fair trial,” Lawrence Gregory-Bey told the Recorder during a telephone interview that took place at his mother’s Eastside home.
Gregory-Bey has served 21 of his 281-year sentence for a murder he and his family members say he didn’t commit.
It all started shortly after 7 a.m. on Nov. 17, 1985. Two men entered a Northwestside McDonald’s restaurant near 56th Street and Michigan Road. After allegedly drinking several cups of coffee and waiting for other customers to leave, the two men flaunted handguns and ordered six crew members including assistant store manager Dwayne Bible inside the freezer. Eventually Bible was separated from the others and died after two gunshots to the base of his head.
Gregory-Bey was later identified as one of the men involved. The other man was never positively identified.
“I’m not an angel, (but) I never been with anybody that killed anybody and I never killed anybody myself,” Gregory-Bey contended from the Pendleton Correctional Facility. “I know the Creator (frowns) on that; if you take a life you won’t enjoy your own.”
Longtime family friend Danny Collier believes that Gregory-Bey’s incarceration was more about political gain than finding the “real” murderer.
“Lawrence Gregory-Bey was a stepping stone for (then Prosecutor) Steven Goldsmith. Any case that was high profile (Goldsmith) was personally involved in so that he could build his career.”
New DNA evidence recovered from a coffee cup and cigarette butts presumably used by the robbers exclude Gregory-Bey as a contributor of the exhibits.
While Deputy State Public Defender Victoria Christ is confident the new evidence will overturn Gregory-Bey’s murder conviction, Prosecutor David Wiser thinks differently.
“The fact that DNA was not on the cigarette butt does not exclude him from committing the crime; it just shows he’s not the one who had the cigarette butt in his mouth.
Deborah Dillard, Gregory-Bey’s fiancée and the mother of the couple’s 21-year-old son says the action of prosecutors “was a wake up call” for her in 1986 as well as today.
“Why do you have a prosecutor over here fighting for something that (they) know is the truth, (but) saying that it’s wrong? I don’t get that.”
Neither does Yvonne Graves, Gregory-Bey’s younger sister who says the family has been on a roller coaster of emotions for the past 21 years.
“When he first started filing appeals, everybody was optimistic,” explained Graves. “We were all over the place because we knew he didn’t do it.”
Now she says that her brother’s time in jail has taken its toll on her. So much in fact, that when she visited Gregory-Bey 13 years ago, she told him that she couldn’t come back.
“I talk to my brother, I send him money, write him, but I (couldn’t) see (him) like that no more. I didn’t go back,” she said through sobs.
After Tuesday’s court hearing that served as a forum to present the new evidence, the judge gave attorneys 45 days to submit findings of fact, which he will review before making a decision.
In the meantime, Gregory-Bey is being careful not to get his hopes too high.
“Truthfully at this stage in it, the way I’ve been done, I don’t trust anything they do.”
Dillard, his longtime girlfriend, says ultimately her hope is that the right person pays for the crime.
“It’s two men here,” she explained. “We got one that’s incarcerated; his spirit is broken. Then we got one all the way physically dead. We’re talking about two people’s lives that affected more people’s lives. Someone needs to pay for that crime.”