At 8:02 p.m. Friday, relatives and friends of Gerard Grandzol will release into the air 50 white paper sky lanterns in memory of the slain Spring Garden activist and father who was killed in front of his 2-year-old daughter.
That's the time he was shot to death a year ago Friday during an alleged robbery by two brothers. The slaying continues to torment Grandzol's wife, Kristin, she said Thursday.
"The one-year anniversary has brought a lot of emotions," she said. "It's almost like it brought me back a year ago."
"The girls have grown," she said of their daughters, Violet, now 3, and Rose, now 1. "Gerry hasn't been here for it. It's heartbreaking."
Kristin Grandzol spoke in a phone interview about an hour after a brief court hearing for Marvin Roberts, now 17, of Tioga, and Maurice Roberts, now 21, of Frankford, who are charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy, robbery, gun offenses, and related charges in the Sept. 7, 2017, shooting death of Gerard Grandzol, 38.
She did not attend the hearing. The defendants, who remain in custody, were not brought to the courtroom.
At the hearing, Common Pleas Court Judge Kathryn Streeter Lewis scheduled a March 4 trial for the two brothers in Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn Bronson's courtroom. A trial-readiness conference was scheduled for Oct. 16.
Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said after the hearing that defense attorneys had rejected plea offers from the District Attorney's Office. She declined to disclose terms of the offers.
"As difficult as it would be for my family and I to go through a trial, we'll go through anything to get them the maximum possible time in prison," Kristin Grandzol said.
She hopes both brothers are convicted of first-degree murder and will spend the rest of their lives behind bars. "That's what they deserve," she said, adding that they "showed zero remorse."
On Friday evening, she said, friends and family will remember her husband by doing things he enjoyed. They will have a barbecue in Fairmount Park and will play music that he loved and had played at their Melon Street block parties, including the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and songs by the Who and the Shins.
And they'll release the lanterns, on which people can write notes to Grandzol. Kristin Grandzol and her daughters will write messages on one of them, she said.
She also has planted a white oak tree in Fairmount Park in her husband's memory. A plaque bearing his name and his birth and death dates will be placed at the tree at a later date, she said.
Grandzol was slain after he and Violet returned with their sheepdog, Oscar, from Lemon Hill in Fairmount Park, where they had been playing Frisbee.
He had parked his Audi SUV outside his home on the 1500 block of Melon Street when the Roberts brothers confronted him, authorities said.
After Marvin Roberts, then 16, grabbed a 9mm pistol from his brother's backpack, Grandzol willingly handed over his wallet, authorities said. When the teen demanded the keys to the SUV, Grandzol asked to remove his daughter from the backseat.
That's when Marvin Roberts said, "No," and fired two shots into Grandzol's face, killing him, authorities said.
The shooting shocked the city because it happened in a generally safe neighborhood and because it occurred in front of the victim's toddler daughter.
Grandzol, executive director at Special Counsel, a legal recruitment firm in Center City, was active in Spring Garden and in his former Francisville neighborhood. And he was a beloved neighbor, often leading kids' scooter and running races, and grilling hot dogs for block parties.