Parole denied for mom who killed sons
YOUNGSTOWN — The Ohio Parole Board denied parole for Rosalie Grant for another five years.
She killed her two young sons in 1983 by setting her East Side home on fire, killing the boys, ages 2 and 1, to collect insurance money.
Grant, 62, has been in prison since November 1983 — close to 40 years — after being convicted of two counts of aggravated murder and two counts of aggravated arson. Grant was sentenced to the death penalty, but Ohio Gov. Dick Celeste commuted her death sentence in 1991. Her present sentence is 20 years to life.
Her next parole hearing is in February 2028.
Investigators determined that the fire was intentionally set through the use of an accelerant, later identified as lighter fluid that was spread on the floor and in the cold-air return of the boys’ bedroom, Gina DeGenova, Mahoning County prosecutor stated in a letter urging the parole board not to grant Grant’s release.
Several weeks before to the fire, Grant secured life insurance policies on her sons. Although Grant had a daughter, a policy was not taken out on this child. At the time of the fire, that child was staying with her grandmother.
DeGenova told the parole board that “While Grant has made productive use of her time in prison, none of these factors … change the fact that Grant burned her own babies alive for financial gain.
“She set fire to her sons’ bedroom, closed their bedroom door and walked outside to secure her own safety. She then stood outside while the bodies of her own children burned beyond recognition. No circumstances could ever justify the release of Grant back into society.”
The parole board also denied release to two men who came up for parole recently — Tommy Williams, 44; and Michael Kerns 62. DeGenova urged the parole board to also deny parole to them.
“As prosecutor, part of my job is to ensure that those who commit crimes are brought to justice,” DeGenova said in a news release.
“This includes keeping those who have been convicted of crimes in prison until such time as they no longer pose a threat to our community.”
She added that “I am pleased that the Ohio Parole Board denied parole for Rosalie Grant, Tommy Williams and Michael Kerns. As argued in the letters I filed opposing parole for these inmates, there is no reasonable ground to believe that releasing any of these three inmates would further the interests of justice and be consistent with the welfare and security of society.
“These offenders committed heinous crimes for which they must remain incarcerated. I will continue to monitors these cases and will object to future parole hearings involving these three inmates.”
Williams was convicted of murder with a firearm specification and was sentenced to 18 years to life in the April 23, 2000, killing of Michael P. Booker outside of Pal Joey’s tavern on Youngstown’s South Side.
Williams will have his next parole hearing in February 2025, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corruption web site.
DeGenova stated that the shooting happened when patrons were leaving the bar early in the morning, and Booker saw Jason Emert strike a woman during an argument.
Booker got into an argument with Emert, who tried to get away. As the two fought, Williams fired a gun at Booker, hitting him in the abdomen, killing him, DeGenova stated.
Williams was admitted to prison Oct. 19, 2001.
DeGenova said Williams has only completed two programs in prison for 21 years. His behavior in prison “does not demonstrate that he is rehabilitated or that he is a different man than the man who shot and murdered Michael Booker.”
Kerns, 62, was convicted of eight counts of rape, one count of kidnapping and one count of gross sexual imposition as a result of his brutal assault of an Austintown Fitch High School student March 7, 1990, DeGenova said in a statement to the parole board.
Kerns also was convicted of attempted abduction of a second young woman earlier the same day. He was sentenced to more than 90 years in prison.
Kerns comes up for parole again in March 2026.
According to the prosecutor’s office, Kerns tried to abduct a female early March 7, 1990. When that failed, he offered to give another female a ride to school. When she got into his vehicle, he drove her to his apartment, where he brutally raped her eight times. He dropped her off at her school and threatened to hurt her if she told anyone, prosecutors have said.
Kerns has served 33 years in prison, but because of the “brutal nature of these crimes along with his rampant recidivism demonstrates that the only way to keep society safe from Kerns is to continue his incarceration,” prosecutors told the parole board.
He has an extensive criminal record. He was on parole for two robberies at the time of the 1990 rapes, prosecutors say.