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Police say wife, son killed man in '94

Investigators say a man's family members buried him in their back yard.

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 3, 2000


BROOKSVILLE -- For painter Joe Grove, laid up by a work injury, the $225,000 disability settlement was a godsend.

photo
Joe Grove holds two dogs on his lap. Authorities say his wife and son killed him and buried him in their back yard in 1994 after he received a $225,000 disability settlement.
For his wife and son, investigators say, it was an opportunity.

Late one night in June 1994, as Joe Grove lay in bed, his 15-year-old shot him to death as the mother watched, investigators say.

They wrapped the body in sheets and dumped it in a 6-foot-deep hole in the back yard, authorities say, and soon after the wife had the grave paved over, and she and the son raised pigs atop the site.

The wife told neighbors her husband moved to Hawaii. She remodeled the house, bought new boats and cars. The son eventually moved out, married and had a baby.

Last week, some six years after Joe Grove disappeared, life took another dramatic turn for the wife and son.

Acting on a tip, investigators began digging at the home and found skeletal remains. Sharon Grove, 52, and Jesus "Jesse" Perez, 21, face first-degree murder charges.

"We're numb at this point," said Bob Grove of Tennessee, Joe Grove's brother. "I knew it was foul play."

Sharon Grove
Jesus "Jesse" Perez
The medical examiner has not confirmed that the remains found behind the house southwest of Brooksville are those of Joe Grove, who would have been 38. But authorities say they are sure it is him because of incriminating statements made by his wife during her arrest Thursday.

* * *

It was 1990 when Joe Grove fell off a ladder while working as a painter for a Jacksonville contractor. He had sustained severe back injuries that required multiple surgeries and left him unable to walk, records show.

About four years later, Grove received the $225,000 settlement check

In the next two weeks, Grove's wife and son talked repeatedly about killing him so they wouldn't have to share the money, said Maj. Richard Nugent of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.

In statements made to authorities, Sharon Grove said she watched as her son shot his father once in the back of the head while he was sleeping.

Evidence from the grave indicates that a garbage bag was placed over Grove's head. His body, a pillow and sheets were wrapped in a comforter with holes in it so a rope could be woven through like a drawstring.

As time passed, and neighbors asked about Joe, Sharon Grove always had an answer, though it wasn't always the same.

He moved to Hawaii, she told most neighbors. But other times she said he had left them and left the state. Or he had died.

The son, Perez, who neighbors said had been home-schooled and seldom allowed to leave the property, eventually moved out.

He married and stayed in the Spring Hill area. He and his wife recently had a child.

Sharon Grove, meanwhile, went through the money quickly, investigators say, making home improvements and buying boats and cars.

She eventually would resell many of her purchases when the cash ran out and her other business ventures -- including an adult health care facility -- didn't thrive.

[Times photo: Maurice Rivenbark]
Authorities stand around the site where they say Joe Grove was buried. After he was killed, a concrete slab for raising pigs was built on the grave, investigators say.

Business wasn't the only thing that went bad for Sharon Grove.

In August 1998, she was arrested and charged with trafficking in prescription painkillers.

Her home, in which she ran the adult care facility -- was inspected for signs of abuse. None was found, but state officials told her she would need to apply for a special license to continue to house three of more people in her home.

Soon after, officials say, her trail disappeared. Until May 22.

* * *

Investigators got a tip, though they won't reveal the informant's identity.

Neighbors think it may be an elderly man who used to stay at her home. Hernando authorities will not confirm that

Nonetheless, deputies went to the house, now under new ownership, and found the grave by using ground-penetrating radar. The remains were unearthed on May 26.

Perez was picked up Thursday evening while washing his car in Spring Hill.

Sharon Grove was arrested outside a Cape Coral Wal-Mart. Officials say she had been living in the area under the name Jackie Moore and had been running another adult health care facility from her home there.

In addition to facing murder charges, the wife and son are both charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Although Perez, of 3265 Harrow Road in Spring Hill, was 15 at the time of the alleged crime, Nugent said he will be charged as an adult.

Bob Grove, the brother in Tennessee, says that while the family is "numb," he had not heard from his brother since 1994 and had a feeling in his gut that he was dead.

Still, no one ever reported Joe Grove missing.

The painter's old boss, David Spencer, was shocked.

"Oh my God . . . I can't believe it," Spencer said. "He was just a really nice guy. A real, "Gee, I got to get the job done' kind of guy."

Many neighbors, on the other hand, said they were not surprised to hear of the arrest of Sharon Grove and Perez, the couple's adopted son.

They described what they called strange occurences at the home, such as the slaughtering of animals. They also said they periodically received threats from the mother and son.

"I'm just surprised," said William Pokorny, "it was the husband."

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