EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one in an ongoing series of stories on the Baldwin High and GMC Prep classes of 1970, which celebrate their 50th anniversary this year.
Grover B. Reed sits on death row in Florida, out of appeals and holding on to his last gasp to live.
Tim Oermann, whose mother was violently murdered by Reed, sits in his home near Jacksonville, Fla., wondering why Reed has not been executed more than 30 years after he was convicted.
One day, Oermann said he hopes to sit next to Reed at the banquet table in heaven.
How can that be? How has Oermann been able to forgive the man who killed his mother?
"God asked me to, and I have," Oermann said. "I don't have any more bitterness. My life has been easier. Forgiving doesn't make you stronger, it sets you free."
That's Tim Oermann's story, a story so powerful that he wants to share it. He has a prison ministry, and he speaks to church groups. You can find his testimony on YouTube or Facebook through his home church, Hibernia Baptist in Fleming Island, Fla.
'IT WAS BRUTAL'
Grover Reed, his girlfriend, and two children arrived in Jacksonville in December 1985. They were broke and homeless. Ervin Oermann, a pastor at a Lutheran church, and his wife, Betty, picked the Reeds up at the bus station after being contacted by local family services.
Rev. and Mrs. Oermann gave the Reed family shelter, food, money and transportation.
"Mom and Dad even let them stay there when they went on vacation," Tim said. "They stayed a little bit longer than anybody wanted, and against my dad's wishes, it was my mom who kept saying, 'Let them stay, let them stay. We've got to take care of that baby.' "
Late in February, the Oermanns agreed it was time for Reed, his girlfriend and children to go.
The Oermanns continued to help them with transportation and grocery money after they left. But Reed was upset and had threatened to "get even," according to an account of events published on murderpedia.com.
On Feb. 27, 1986, Rev. Oermann came home from a meeting at his church and found his wife dead. She had been strangled and stabbed.
"It was ugly. It was messy. It was brutal," Tim Oermann said.
He remembers getting the call from his dad about 7:30 that night: "Your mother has been murdered."
Tim and his wife, the former Dorothy Ann Alford, and their 2-year-old daughter were living in St. Louis. Within an hour, they had packed and were in the car driving to Florida.
The funeral was in the middle of the week, so by the weekend, they packed their car again, and brought Tim's dad back with them to St. Louis.
On Sunday morning, they attended their home church.
"Everybody asked, 'What are you doing here?' " Tim said. "We looked at them and said, 'Where else would we be?' "
In July of that year, Reed was indicted on three counts, including first-degree murder.
In November, the jury voted for the death penalty.
Tim and Dorothy didn't know each other as members of the Baldwin High Class of 1970. They met a couple of years later when both had jobs in downtown Milledgeville. They recently celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary.
Dorothy was in the Baldwin band for four years and spent a lot of time at Lake Sinclair when she wasn't working on weekends at her parents' store.
Tim was a key cog in the Baldwin debate, speech, one-act play and literary teams. Where you found Tim, you also could usually find Bill Horne, Bob Evans, Jimmy Hunter, Joe Carson and Lee Dennis.
"The six of us, we were different. I realize it now," Tim said. "We thought everybody else was conceited and in a clique. We were unique, and we were unique in what we accomplished."
Tim credits drama teacher Jackson Farabee, as well as principal Dr. E.C. Phillips, for helping create opportunities for students in "that academic/nerdy stuff. Before it was just football and other sports."
For his first one-act play, Tim said he "had to buy red pantyhose. I remember going to a downtown ladies shop and asking for some. The lady asked me what size? I said, 'About mine.' They fit, and the whole student body got to see them. For an 11th-grader, you try that."
FLIP THE SWITCH
Tim Oermann said he is hoping for the day when he comes face-to-face with the man convicted of murdering his mother.
That might happen if he gets to give his testimony or teach an anger management class at the prison where Grover Reed is located. Or it could take place at Reed's execution.
Reed has been scheduled for execution several times in the last few years, only to be skipped.
Oermann said maybe God is waiting until Reed repents and accepts Jesus as his Savior.
When Reed is executed, Oermann wants to be there and flip the switch to the electric chair.
"Justice is justice," he said. "Even then, I would rather flip the switch after he has accepted Christ."
People continue to ask Oermann how he carries on with no closure in his mother's death after all these years.
"It's easy," he tells them. "One day at a time. I let God lead and do the rest.”
Reach Rick Millians at firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-331-4290.