COMMERCE – Faced with returning to jail and angry the mother of his child would not reconcile with him, 36-year-old Keith Jermaine Gresham killed the woman’s two young sons before taking his own life, authorities said Tuesday.
Gresham sent several ominous text messages to friends and family before and after shooting 4-year-old Keionte Gresham and 7-year-old Keion Gresham on Monday morning in a remote wooded area near Commerce, Jackson County Sheriff’s Maj. David Cochran said. A lengthy suicide note left behind in Gresham’s car offered his motivation.
“It outlines a lot of animosity he had toward the children’s mother,” Cochran said. “It outlines a lot of frustrations, that he did not want to return to jail and was not going to go back to jail.”
Gresham fathered 4-year-old Keionte with 29-year-old Catrina Doster of Hull. Doster’s 7-year-old son, Keion, was not Gresham’s biological son but had taken his last name and referred to Gresham as his father, Cochran said.
Gresham and Doster, who knew each other for about 10 years, never married and had not lived together since early 2008.
Commerce Police Chief John Gaissert said sometime prior to Monday, Doster agreed to let Gresham have the children for a short time, though she had a temporary protective order out against Gresham for domestic violence.
Gresham did not return the children on the agreed-upon time, and Doster went to the Commerce Police Department to file a report of interference with custody at about 2 p.m. Monday.
Commerce Police checked Gresham’s Wesley Way home but did not locate him or the children.
Authorities believe the children were killed around 10:30 a.m. Monday, when nearby residents heard gunshots in the woods, which is frequented by hunters. Gresham’s last text message was sent about noon, Cochran said.
“(The messages) indicated he was going to harm himself,” Cochran said.
A relative of Gresham’s found his red 2008 Dodge Charger about 5:30 p.m. in woods off Old Wood Bridge Road, a few hundred feet from a deer stand and an area where he had gone to hunt in the past. He was dead of a gunshot wound to the head.
Responding deputies found the bodies of the children, also dead of gunshot wounds, in the woods nearby.
Cochran said Gresham was due Monday morning in Jackson County Superior Court for a probation revocation hearing.
According to a police report, the boys’ mother told officers that she “let the children go with him to spend time with him before he went to jail.”
Court records show Gresham spent a year in the Jackson County Detention Center after pleading guilty in 2006 to possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. He was also placed on 10 years of probation.
Gresham was arrested in February on a felony probation violation warrant at his workplace, a Jefferson company that installs insulation for poultry houses. Family members later posted a $10,000 property bond.
Doster told police that Gresham was sending text messages Monday “that sounded strange,” and that she thought “he might try to harm himself or the children.”
Doster took out a protective order against Gresham in September 2009 after he allegedly would not let her leave his home or use the phone to call police.
“He threatened me and asked is this how I wanted my life to end,” Doster wrote in the petition for protective order. “He kept telling me to bring his family back home. He said he can’t live without us and we would never leave him.”
Keion Gresham attended Commerce Primary School as a kindergartner and first-grader before transferring to another school in December, principal Kim Savage said.
“He was just a really sweet little boy,” she said. “It’s so sad.”