LAKEWOOD RANCH — Ellen Gerth will call her brother something the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office won’t: murderer.
More than two-and-a-half years after her mother, Ina Gross, was murdered in her Lakewood Ranch home, Gerth alleges that her brother, Thomas Gross, committed the crime.
The sheriff’s office has only named Thomas Gross, who lives in Israel, as a “person of interest.” He could not be reached for comment.
“We’re continuing to move forward in the investigation,” said Dave Bristow, public information officer for the sheriff’s office. “The son remains a person of interest, and we’re not going to comment any further on that aspect of the investigation. This is a complex case, in many ways, but progress is being made.”
Gerth tries to remain as patient as possible and says she is confident in the sheriff’s office’s investigation. But as she waits for closure, she also is taking steps to prevent Thomas Gross from receiving funds from his mother’s estate.
On May 23, Gerth and her husband, David, won a civil suit that entitles Ellen Gerth to 100% of funds from two annuities in Ina Gross’ name — about $300,000 — according to a court order by U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr., of the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division.
“I (am) determined to prevent Tom Gross from obtaining funds from his mother’s estate following the murder of his mother,” Ellen Gerth said. “(The concept is) so disgusting to me. It’s so awful. This is a woman who was incredibly generous. It’s not about money for me. I’d rather have my mother back. It’s about preventing my brother from getting money from my mom after killing her.”
During proceedings for the civil suit, Thomas Gross exercised his Fifth Amendment right during more than five hours of deposition for the case. Ultimately, when the court required him to come to the U.S. for mediation, he waived his claim to the money, instead.
“He had been pursuing this money,” Ellen Gerth said, adding she believes the case shows his guilt.
The Gerths also have two other cases pending — one in Manatee County and another in Hillsborough — that they expect to advance in the coming months. No timeframe has been set.
In the civil case filed in Manatee County, Ellen Gerth asserts assets from Ina Gross’ living trust should not be divided equally among three of four of Gross’ children because Thomas Gross was indebted to his mother for $690,645, including interest of 3.6% annually, and for an additional loan of about $154,000.
The civil case in Hillsborough involves recovering funds the Gerths lent to Thomas Gross after Ina Gross’ murder — money they lent Thomas Gross before they believed he was involved in the crime against his mother.
“My intention was to make people aware that although a criminal indictment hasn’t occurred, it doesn’t change what this person did to my mom,” Ellen Gerth said. “He took her life, just like that — like it was irrelevant. I’m not stopping.”
David Gerth, who sits quietly beside his wife at the Lakewood Ranch Main Street Starbucks, where Ellen and her mother would often go for coffee, adds: “We believe the community needs to know how she was killed.”
ABOUT THE LAWSUIT
The Gerths’ first case against Thomas Gross spells out details of Ina Gross’ murder that the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has not released — how Thomas Gross was visiting his mother from Israel when she was found stabbed in the garage of her home, among other forensic details — as well as how Thomas Gross had consistently told his mother of his “severe financial extremes” and asked her for money.
An exhibit attached to the lawsuit states Thomas Gross withdrew $43,000 from one of Ina Gross’ bank accounts, on which he was a signatory, after he found his mother murdered.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].