Was payback the motive for the murder of a detective’s 7-year-old son?

Smiling Gary Grant Jr.. He has a bowl haircut and is missing a front tooth

Gary Grant Jr.

A pipe in a patch of tall grass

A pipe was found near Gary’s body

CASE DETAILS

January 12, 1984, was a rare midweek holiday for 7-year-old Gary Grant Jr. There was no school because of a teacher’s conference. Gary lived with his mother, May. She and Gary’s father, an Atlantic City, New Jersey Police detective, had been separated for nearly a year. According to May, that morning Gary told his mother that he had an appointment that afternoon:

“I was asking him with who and he said it was a secret. So I thought you know, it’s silly. You know, he’s a little boy, something to do maybe with his little girlfriend around the corner or something. So I kind of left it at that. He wanted to go out and play so he got dressed and he went out to play.”

A cryptic message wtitten on the side door of a patrol car

A cryptic message on the patrol car

Around noon, Gary left home. He told May he would be back by 4:00 PM, before it got dark:

“It got to be 4:30 and he still hadn’t shown up for dinner and he liked his dinner. He never missed. So I started getting worried. And I went down to see two girls that were friends of his and asked them if they had seen Gary.”

When another two hours passed with no sign of Gary, May telephoned her husband. Gary Grant Sr. proceeded to search the neighborhood for his son:

“I searched until well after midnight, probably until around 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning, I walked around. As a matter of fact, I called out from work that night. I was due to go in to work at midnight and I called my sergeant and advised him that I wouldn’t be coming in.”

By the next morning, the Atlantic City Police Department had started an all out search for Gary Jr. Regulations prevented Detective Grant from taking part in the official investigation, but as a father, he was unwilling to stand by and do nothing:

“I started searching every possible place I could think of. I started searching abandoned houses. I started searching underneath the boardwalk. I started searching arcades and questioning people who were working in the arcades… By Friday night, it started getting dark again. And still no sign or no word of Gary. I started then looking in alleyways and trashcans and dumpsters. The streets can be pretty mean for an adult, let alone for a 7-year-old child. And by that time, I was fearing the worst.”

A cryptic message on a sidewalk that reads 'Gary Grant Jr. Lives. I still killed him. son of a pig officer. Payback is a M.F.'

Another message, was the writer the killer?

The next afternoon the body of Gary Grant, Jr. was found in a vacant lot less than two blocks from his home. He had been beaten to death. Nearby, lay a short length of heavy pipe, probably the murder weapon. The police immediately imposed a radio silence until the boy’s family could be notified. At virtually that same moment, Detective Grant, exhausted and on the verge of collapse, came upon the scene:

“I didn’t want to believe that it was him. Being a father, you don’t want to believe it. You don’t want to believe that your kid is lying back there somewhere you know, and he’s never going to get up again.”

The investigation began like all others, with detectives tracing the victim’s final hours and talking to those who knew him best. Carl Mason, nicknamed “Boo”, was a mentally challenged 12-year-old with an IQ of 65. Though Boo was five years older than Gary, he was smaller in height and weight. The two boys were good friends and often played together. According to Rick Murray, an investigative journalist who covered the case, Boo said he was not with Gary on the day of his murder:

“But detectives canvassing the neighborhood kept coming back with stories that he had, in fact, been with Gary. So they didn’t know what to do. There was this conflict. Boo seemed like such a harmless character. He was known as a scaredy cat in the neighborhood. But they just couldn’t reconcile the conflict.”

That night, Boo was driven to police headquarters by his grandmother. Once there, Boo was separated from his grandmother and led into a small room for questioning. But according to Rick Murray, Boo’s stories were inconsistent:

“In questioning Boo… the detectives wrestled around with it until finally… he acknowledged being with the victim at the crime scene and that he had in fact hit him with the pipe. He was telling police details that only the killer could have known and that sort of got everything into high gear because they realized that Boo was now the prime suspect.”

After three long hours, police believed they had an admission of guilt. A confession was drawn up based on the interrogation. Boo signed the document, but insisted he had not murdered his friend. He was charged with murder and sent to a juvenile detention center. However, Boo still maintained he was not with Gary the day he went missing:

“I did not have anything to do with his murder. The one cop said if you admit that you did it, we’ll let you go home. So me at the age of 12, I was so tired, I said, if you say so, but I didn’t, then next thing I knew, I winded up in a home.”

On Sunday, January 15th, Boo was given a polygraph exam. The results were inconclusive. According to Rick Murray, three days later a second test was administered:

“In both the first and second lie detector tests, it was determined that Boo had answered truthfully when he said that he did not kill Gary Grant.”

A month after Boo Mason was arrested, a hearing was held to determine whether his “confession” was admissible in court. The charges against Boo Mason were dropped and police never came up with another viable suspect. But two years later, it became obvious that someone had not forgotten Gary Grant, Jr. At approximately 3:00 AM, on January 4, 1986, a vandal painted a chilling message on the side of an Atlantic City patrol car that read, “Gary Grant’s dead. I am living. Another will die on January 12th if all goes right.” According to Detective Grant, January 12th would have been the second anniversary of his son’s murder:

“From what I observed on the car, it appeared to me that it was written on there by an adult. However as far as ever finding out who did it, we’ve never found that out.”

A few weeks later, a second cryptic message was scratched on a sidewalk: “Gary Grant Jr. lives. I still killed him. Son of a pig officer. Payback is a M.F.” This second message led to speculation that Gary had been murdered as retribution, possibly for an arrest his father had made. To date, no further messages have been received.

But for May Grant and the rest of the family, there is still hope that one day Gary Jr.’s killer will be brought to justice:

“I would like to see the person or persons who are out there and they know who they are, to come forward. So I could have a little peace too, in my mind and in my heart.”


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season six with Robert Stack and in season two with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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35 Comments

  1. Bluebird

    I really do believe that boo knows who killed Gary grant Jr. I think the killer had probably threatened boo!!!

    Reply

  2. ruth kelleher

    For the police officer , and his family to loose a child is terrible but to loose a child to murder is so so hard . the said killer if they did leave the note and phone call message , its personal but it does not fully ascertain if he or they were involved or had something to do with the child ‘s death. only the killer or killers who knew info only the police would know on the death of the child would ascertain there involvement in the death of the child. for someone to play a sick joke on the parents of the boy , by pretending to be the killer is so wrong if that was the case . granted some people out there do have an issue with cops esp if they were arrested by them in the past but i don’t think they would kill the police officers son, unless it was really payback revenge on what the officer did as a job to the said person who was more than likely arrested by the childs father at one time. To kill someone , esp to beat a kid to death means no turning back and a violent way to kill a child too means a lot of anger and hate. many killings happen at random ,for stupid things . 2 theories , one is the person or persons who kidnapped his son and killed him knew the boy and his family or 2nd motive is the cop must have arrested the person in the past and the guy had a grudge , or the person was a wanderer who was known to police and had a thing for kids. either way the killer or killers are still not caught. there is no justice for this boy, nor peace for his family knowing who is responsible for there beloved sons murder /death. no parent should ever loose a child . the pain is always there. no matter how long it takes , justice will come on those who did this horrific murder of a child , in this life or the next . R.I.P Gary Grant Jr. hope someone comes forward , with new info. someone knows something , someone must know something no matter how slight .

    Reply

  3. Tracy

    I know for sure it was boo and his brother who is now dead boo definitely killed Gary sad man

    Reply

  4. Jason

    Looking back on the show, how many times do the police “interrogate” or force a confession out of someone with an iq of below 70?? The Johnny dude who they said burned down his grandma’s house, etc. I love how they seperate this poor kid from his grandma and question him alone for hrs. “If you tell us what we wanna hear, you can go home.” It’s sick.
    Im sorry for Garry Sr’s loss, and it sucks they have no leads and people are obviously messing with him. I dont buy the 911 call or the graffiti are from the killer(s). How is the confession from a developmentally delayed minor (at the time) the ONLY lead?

    Reply

  5. syldan

  6. ANONYMOUS

    Gary Grant Sr should have gone back to all the arrest he had made and investigate those men and maybe found the killer.

    Reply

  7. Richie

    Guy in the recording was just taunting if he did anything at all. Probably got off on it but $10 it was just a prank. We’ll never know. People lie about everything for sport. As for the graffiti, likely pranks too by some idiot but again we’ll never know. Too bad though whatever occurred, but likely some random child predator as they’re everywhere hiding in plain sight. Was rough being a kid in the 80s though.

    Reply

    • eric

      I was a kid in the 80’s and looking back we now know that the “random child abductions” along with the “Satanic panic” was nothing but nonsense that got innocent people sent to prison, it is not a coincidence that both of these moral panics coincided with the rise of the Regan Moral Majority who now make up the current Christian Nationalism MAGA cult which is a REAL THREAT to our democracy

      Reply

  8. Jenny from the Block

    It always seems peculiar to me that the police can launch an “all out search” for someone, spend hours and hours rooting around in every nook and cranny for miles around with a fine-tooth comb, and then – lo and behold – the missing individual (or their body) always seems to end up within a few blocks of where they went missing. Wouldn’t places like that have already been searched? And if so, why is there no mention of the oddity of finding a body in a spot that had already been tromped through by multiple searchers?
    The notes left after the death of this little boy are, more or less, just griping from disgruntled cop-haters who think it’s fitting that a cop’s child should die simply because a cop is a cop is a cop. I would be willing to wager my income for the upcoming year that neither note-writer (or “the” writer, if they were penned by the same person) had anything at all to do with Gary Junior’s death, or anyone else’s for that matter.

    Reply

  9. Alex

    Did anything come of the first comment where someone said they knew who killed Gary?

    Reply

  10. Charles

    I think it is/was likely a child predator, who was possibly targeting other kids in the neighborhood. Boo is likely repressing the experiences, and it is normal for some kids to do that with traumatic events. He is also mentally challenged, so that makes it even more difficult for him. Gary told his mother he had an “appointment ” and that is just not normal behavior/wording for a 7 year old. The predator was likely forcing him or blackmailing him.

    Reply

  11. Dave

    Thing is how do we know any of the calls were legit? How many times has someone did something like that or in the case of a missing child claimed to be that child? People are messed up. Some are just awful people and some perhaps mental problems. In one call a person was named. My guess is the arrest records of Grant Sr had to be checked assuming they were even kept. But apparently the guy named was later convicted of sexually assaulting a child. The article doesn’t name the guy as he’s never been charged with Gary Jr’s murder.

    The key here would be to press Mason and try and get him to talk. Though I’m still on the fence if he was even there. Yeah other kids said they say him with Gary Jr, but doesn’t prove he was there the day of. But he might be the key. The guy convicted of sexual abuse, if he’s the guy, clearly cops can’t link him.

    Reply

  12. Marie

    Well, it was 1984

    Reply

  13. Marie

    Uh, he’s 7 and he wants to go somewhere at noon for 4 hours and not tell you where? Guess it was 1984, no one would just allow that nowadays.

    Reply

  14. Ede

  15. Ede

    PSYCHIC INVESTIGATORS – 1X02 – Amie Hoffman

    Reply

  16. Ede

    Mr. Grant, try to contact this lady, she’s wonderful helping to resolve cold cases. PSYCHIC INVESTIGATORS – 1X02 – Amie Hoffman

    Reply

  17. Andy Lee

    I also believe Boo knows who did it. I’m kind of curious if they checked recent arrests or convictions (if it was someone who wanted revenge) and maybe interview family and friends of the recent arrests? Just to narrow down any potential suspects..

    Reply

  18. thinkingoutloud

    i think boo knows who killed him but he’s too scared to tell for obvious reasons. he told police information only the killer would know. i dont believe boo did it, but he was definitely there or at least saw it happen and hes too scared to tell.
    poor gary, so young. RIP

    Reply

    • Tony

      Exactly, I was watching this episode and boo gave the details that they didn’t put out there, so he definitely knows something for sure.

      Reply

  19. john

    Was any voice analyst done on any of the major suspects?

    Reply

  20. Bryan

    Any updates on this case?

    Reply

  21. Chanita

    what in The Hell I Mean Come On Really?

    Reply

  22. Anonymous

    I’ve recently watched the episode of UNSOLVED MYSTERIES w/ Dennis Farina on AMAZON PRIME & have a few questions. Did the Atlantic City police ever take fingerprints of the lead pipe that they believed killed the boy? Also, did they take any fingerprints off of the police car where the mysterious note was written by the supposed killer? Were there any handwriting experts to study the note?

    Reply

    • Anonymous

      NOOOO, I’m sure the COPS never even thought to look for prints. His dad was a cop, but I’m sure that thought never crossed his mind. Really, are you that stupid?

      Reply

  23. Keri

    I listened to the 911 audio… the guy sounds so arrogant and casual about it. Surprising that he hasn’t been caught yet with him being stupid and greedy enough to call and try to claim his own Crime stoppers reward.

    Reply

  24. Randall Wilson

    Yea the police should have press boo more if he didn’t do it witch I think he knows who did from what I got he’s older so he could have boo scared I think more could have been done they got a hand witten they can compare to and voice cases have been sloved off less I hope I meet this guy who killed this boy it want be good for him his a pussy if he had a problem with his father take up with him not a 7 year old

    Reply

  25. Anonymous

    Has there any new info about this case?

    Reply

  26. Angel

    If BOO DID NOT KILL HIM .. My hindsight suggest he knew who DID.. He also knows who is Taunting police

    Reply

  27. Ernest

    Has their been any promising leads

    Reply

  28. Anonymous

    I know who killed gary

    Reply

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