“Is it possible for me to collect a reward on my own self for the murder of Gary Grant?” the man calling 911 in 1986 asked an Atlantic City police dispatcher.
Seven-year-old Gary Grant Jr., of Atlantic City, had been dead more than two years when the call was made on what would have been his 10th birthday.
The man ended the March 8, 1986, call with the promise, “You’re never going to catch me.”
Gary Grant Sr. hoped to close the case of his son's slaying 25 years ago.
Three decades later, it seems at least that last part was true.
But Gary Grant Jr.’s father hopes that the tape he came across will help identify the man who made that call.
Gary Grant Sr. is long-retired from the Atlantic City Police Department, but remains an investigator when it comes to his son’s 32-year-old killing.
“My son is on my mind every waking moment of my life,” he told The Press of Atlantic City on Monday.
Grant recently was going through old tapes to convert to MP3 when he came across one labeled “phone calls.”
When he played it, “I almost fell off my chair,” he said.
In addition to a copy of the tape from the possible killer, there was another recording from June 2, 1986.
“I can’t give you my name,” the man tells the 911 operator. But he gives another name, the man he says confessed to killing the young boy found bludgeoned to death Jan. 14, 1986, two days after he never returned after leaving his mother’s Atlantic City home for a “meeting.”
“He told me he killed Gary Grant Jr. because of the father,” the man says. “The cops know what he looks like.”
The Press of Atlantic City is not naming the man, since he has not been charged.
Grant said Monday that the man lived in his patrol area, “but I don’t recall having any problems with him.”
The man named was arrested five years ago charged with sexual contact with a child younger than 5, and child endangerment. He pleaded to the child endangerment charge in 2013, court records show.
Only one person has ever been publicly named as a suspect in the case: Carl Mason, who went by the nickname “Boo.”
Then a 12-year-old boy, he was brought in as a possible witness, along with other neighborhood kids, said Jim Barber, a retired Atlantic County Major Crimes detective who worked the case.
When Carl began to implicate himself, the interview was stopped and he was read his rights, Barber recalled. Carl’s grandmother also was called in and given the opportunity to sit in, but refused.
However, a judge threw out the confession, saying police “trampled on (the boy’s) constitutional rights” by interviewing him without a guardian present.
“I believe we had the right person,” Barber said. “We did take it to the appellate division, but (the judges) ruled against us.”
He didn’t recall the name the anonymous caller gave in 1986. But he also estimated that 500 to 600 people were interviewed as part of the investigation.
Grant just hopes someone may recognize one of the voices on the tape and help lead police to the person responsible for his son’s death.
Atlantic County Prosecutor Jim McClain could not comment on specifics of the case, but said “an unsolved murder is always under review, always under evaluation, and will continue to be assigned to Major Crimes Unit detectives for follow-up investigation until it is solved.”
“When we develop or obtain fresh information, and as we review existing information, we investigate with the ongoing goal of obtaining resolution to the case and justice for the victims,” he added.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Major Crimes at 609-909-7666.