Victim's family protests killer's release

Macomb Daily staff photo by David Dalton
Max Grayvold, 69, of Royal Oak, talks about the 1966 slaying of his brother, Gary, and the recent approval of the release of one of his killers, Dante Ferrazza, who was sentenced to life in prison without a chance for parole.
Macomb Daily staff photo by David Dalton Max Grayvold, 69, of Royal Oak, talks about the 1966 slaying of his brother, Gary, and the recent approval of the release of one of his killers, Dante Ferrazza, who was sentenced to life in prison without a chance for parole.

The governor's approval of freeing a 71-year-old former Warren man who has spent 42 years in prison for killing a man is vigorously opposed by the victim's family and Macomb prosecutors.

Dante Ferrazza, who was sentenced to life in prison without a chance for parole in 1967, is scheduled to be released from prison in January after the governor in October endorsed a recommendation from the Parole Board.

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith on Monday filed an application to appeal the decision in Macomb County.

Ferrazza was convicted of first-degree, premeditated murder along with Harry Whitney, who has since died, for the April 1966 strangling death of Gary Grayvold, 28, of Detroit. The slaying was a


gangland-style execution among small-time criminals in which Ferrazza and Whitney abducted Grayvold at gunpoint at Pampa Lanes in Warren, strangled him in a garrote-style execution and dumped his body in a lake at Stony Creek Park (now Metropark) in Washington Township, according to published reports at the time. His body, which had been weighted with two cement blocks, was found May 6 by two Warren High School students at a dam in the park, reports say.

Brad Grayvold, 42, one of Gary Grayvold's three sons, and Max Grayvold, 29, Gary Grayvold's brother, told The Macomb Daily this week they are angry and dismayed the governor OK'd Ferrazza's release.

Brad Grayvold, an elementary school principal in Norway, Mich., in the Upper Peninsula, said he "nearly fell off my chair" when he saw the e-mail informing him of the decision.

"It was like a dagger," he said. "He took away something from me that can never be given back. He knew exactly what he was doing. He deserves to die in prison."

The Gravolds said they believe Granholm did not read the case or a letter submitted to her by Brad Grayvold because she would have rejected it if she did. Ferrazza had two prior armed robbery convictions and was on parole at the time of the slaying.

Max Grayvold of Royal Oak, a business owner in Birmingham, said Ferrazza remains a danger to the community as well as he and Brad, since Ferrazza saw them speak at the Parole Board hearing.

"We don't believe the governor was given the right information," Max Grayvold said. "He is a danger to the community. I feel in danger myself. He is 71 years old; that's middle age nowadays. ... Show me one way he will be a contributing member of society."

Assistant Macomb prosecutor Robert Berlin argues in the brief seeking the appeal: "The decision constitutes an abuse of discretion based upon the very serious nature of the instant offense and the expectations of society and the victim's family as to the serving of the life sentence."

A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 8 in front of circuit Chief Judge Richard Caretti.

The Attorney General's Office also opposed the release at the parole hearing, the Grayvolds said.

Attorney General spokespersons could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Granholm spokeswoman Megan Brown said Wednesday the governor approved Ferrazza's release because he no longer poses a danger to the community.

"He's 71 years old. He's served 42 years," she said.

Granholm's commutation of the sentence is part of her effort to reduce the cost of and reform the state Department of Corrections, which in recent years has increasingly strained the state budget due to a rising prison population.

Granholm this year has approved 40 early releases after approving 18 in her prior five years in office, according to Brown.

Candidates must fall into one of three categories -- elderly, frail or nonviolent.

Ferrazza does have some medical conditions but was considered to be too old to be a threat. He has an exemplary prison record.

Brown pointed out the governor only grants a tiny percentage of the "hundreds" of requests for early release each year. The number of applications may have hit 1,000 this year, she said.

"We are very meticulous" and consider the clemency requests "very, very seriously," Brown said.

John Lasko, the assistant prosecutor who handled the case, submitted a letter to the governor supporting Ferrazza's release, Brown said.

Brown said the governor's office invited Brad Grayvold to meet with the governor's legal team but he has not responded.

Max Grayvold, who attended much of Ferrazza's trial in 1967 in front of Judge Frank Jeannette, called Ferrazza a "manipulator" and "sociopath" who remains capable of returning to the bad habits of his past.

Ferrazza and Whitney fled the state and were arrested in Evanston, Ill, a Chicago suburb, after being suspected of robbing a supermarket there and committing other robberies, according to a published report in 1966.

Among other evidence, Ferrazza and Whitney were tied to Grayvold by a similar tattoo all of them had on their ankles -- a stick figure of a man that Max Grayvold said appears to be the logo from the TV series "The Saint."

Ferrazza's sister argued for her brother's release at the parole hearing in January 2008 in Jackson, the Grayvolds said.

Max Grayvold admitted his brother was involved in criminal activity and had two armed robbery convictions but said he was killed because he agreed to cooperate with police in an investigation of a check forgery scheme conducted by the three men.

Max Grayvold said he saw his brother the day he went missing.

"He told me he was going to meet these guys," he said. "He didn't suspect anything. That day he confided in me he did something wrong."

He said he, his brother and a third brother grew up "very poor," and Gary Grayvold probably liked the fast money that can come with criminal activity. But he said his brother was talented and, with his cooperation with police, may have been wishing to become a law abider.

"He loved his wife, he liked being a father," Max Grayvold said. "It was tough losing a brother that way. He was physically fit. He was very bright, very witty. He was somebody everybody would like. He wouldn't let anyone bully anyone else."

His wife, Gloria Jean, last saw him that day, too, when he left their home on Stout Street in a 1958 Chevy.

His wife, now Gloria Jean Holmes, lives in the Upper Peninsula, was pregnant at the time with Brad, and they had two other small boys -- Tony, now 46, and John, now 44 -- both of whom now also reside in the U.P. Holmes, a U.P. native, moved the family there shortly after the murder. She later married William Holmes, and they had a child, David Holmes.

Brad Grayvold, a high school football coach and president of the Michigan Football Coaches Association, vowed he will fight Ferrazza's release like a linebacker pursing a running back.

"I will not let this die," he said.

Ferrazza had been serving at a prison in the Thumb area but was recently moved to Macomb Correctional Facility in Lenox Township.

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