LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch resident Ina Gross was never afraid to speak her mind. She was passionate, witty, wise and unwaveringly honest and had a strong sense of morality and justice.
But Jan. 9, 2012, Gross, a beloved community member and local volunteer, was found murdered in her Lakewood Ranch home.
Now, a year after her death, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office officials still have released few details surrounding Gross’ death, aside from calling it a homicide and naming her son, Thomas Gross, a “person of interest” in May 2012.
However, Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube said he is confident Gross’ murderer will be brought to justice.
Although much of the forensic evidence is in, detectives are still tracking down and sorting through bank records, computer and telephone evidence and other information.
“We are still waiting on information that we’re trying to gather, not only on the person of interest, but on other people involved in the investigation,” he said. “We’re not there yet.”
Steube said he wishes the case had been closed before the one-year anniversary of Gross’ death, but detectives are working hard to build a case that cannot be disputed.
“People have to realize, in a lot of cases, we believe we know who committed the crime,” Steube said, noting the Sheriff’s Office coordinates with the State Attorney’s Office to ensure a case is solid before charges are brought forward. “We don’t want to make an arrest and present a case to the State Attorney’s Office that’s not good. (It needs to) have everything needed for successful prosecution. If that takes us time to do, then that’s what we’re going to do.”
Steube noted two cases in which murder suspects were not named or apprehended for years. Detectives arrested William Cumber Oct. 15, 2012, on charges of murder, in connection with the presumed death of his girlfriend, Sabine Musil-Buehler, who went missing from her Anna Maria home Nov. 4, 2008.
And Delmer Smith was convicted of murder in August 2012, for the murder of Kathleen Briles Aug. 3, 2009.
Gross’ daughter, Ellen Gerth, who lives in Tampa, said she is confident the Sheriff’s Office will find her mother’s killer.
“The investigation has taken time because detectives are committed in their determination to do the most complete and comprehensive job to ensure justice is (served to my mother),” Gerth said, noting she remains in close contact with the Sheriff’s Office.
Not a day passes that she does not mourn the loss of her mother and best friend.
“My mother’s life was brutally taken from her by a sick and self-serving person, and I was robbed of my best friend,” Gerth said. “My mom didn’t live to be an old person as she should have and as I’d hoped. It’s a pain I feel every day and it’s a heartbreak I struggle with every day. The intense pain and sadness I feel for my mother remain as profound today as it did the day I learned she had been killed.”
Gerth hopes to continue honoring her mother’s memory, passion for life and love of people by doing things that were important to her. For example, Gerth now serves on the board of directors for Stop Children’s Cancer, an organization her father co-founded and her mother supported for decades, and has spoken with the director of the Resurrection House, where Gross volunteered, about ways to honor Gross while benefiting the house, among other things.
Gerth said she no longer is in contact with her brother, who lives in Israel.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
Following the death of Ina Gross, neighbors in her Riverwalk Hammock neighborhood met in February to discuss the possibility of starting a neighborhood watch program, or other safety improvements.
Although the neighborhood watch option was ruled out, a representative from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has made three presentations to residents on how they can improve safety in their community and homes since then. A fourth presentation is being scheduled, neighbor Paul Kraft said.
Important Dates in the investigation
Jan. 9, 2012
Ina Gross found dead in the garage of her Lakewood Ranch home.
Jan. 10, 2012
Gross’ death confirmed a homicide; No forced entry to the home reported.
Jan. 25, 2012
Gross’ neighbors gathered to discuss how to improve safety in their neighborhood.
Gross’ son, Thomas Gross, is named a “person of interest.”