PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — On the last day of the Northam administration, a local family learned a 46-year-old Williamsburg man, Ransom Ronnie Grandel, was granted a pardon via online records.
They thought he would soon return home.
But three weeks later, they learned state officials say he really wasn’t pardoned, and for now, he will remain in prison.
The case dates back to November 1995. A suspected drug dealer got into a shootout with a James City County police officer following a traffic stop. In the exchange of gunfire, both men, as well as a 17-year-old girl who was in her bed, were struck by gunfire.
Officer Pat Murray, suspect Ransom Grandel, and a 17-year-old girl caught in the crossfire, were shot, but all three survived. When Grandel was convicted and sent to prison to serve life plus 49 years, his niece Ericka was only 11 years old.
“At that time it really crushed me. I was devastated being so young. There was really nothing I could do about it,” said Ericka Grandel in a Zoom interview.
However, 24 years later, she did do something about it. In October 2021, she helped her uncle file a petition for clemency. On Gov. Ralph Northam’s last day in office, a state portal showed that the pardon was granted.
“If you click on the status, it says that a decision has been made on the pardon request the pardon has been granted,” explained Ericka Grandel.
The next day, Gov. Glenn Youngkin was sworn in. Six days later, she checked the portal again.
“I found out his pardon has been rolled back to ‘awaiting review’ and I found that out a week later on Friday, January 21. When I saw that status, it was like a rock in my stomach. It was, like, very hurtful to see that,” said Ericka Grandel.
She continued asking questions and then on January 28, the Grandels received another response from the state via email.
“The clemency staff told me that basically his petition was granted in error due to a computer issue and ‘I’m sorry for your heartache or any confusion this may have caused,'” said Ericka Grandel.
The email read:
Mr. Grandel, Our office is in receipt of the pardon petition you submitted in October 2021. Recently we had an error in our computer system that caused the portal to temporarily show your petition with a status of granted. Your pardon is still under review and has not been granted. I’m sorry for the confusion and any heartache this may have caused.
“How does a mistake of this magnitude happen and you just say ‘Oh I’m sorry.’ That I don’t understand and for that, I would like a response,” said Ericka Grandel.
And, there’s more. On Friday, January 28, Ericka Grandel received an email from the state saying “Mr. Grandel’s pardon was submitted originally as a simple pardon and not a conditional pardon. Thus, he does not qualify for a simple pardon.”
The email read:
From: “Pardons Office, Virginia” <email@example.com>To: “Ericka Grandel”
Sent: Fri, Jan 28, 2022 at 9:40 AM Subject: Re: Ransom Ronnie Grandel Pardon Status
Mr. Grandel’s pardon was submitted originally as a simple pardon and not a conditional pardon. Thus, he does not qualify for a simple pardon. Mr. Grandel’s conditional pardon is in review status at present.
Ericka Grandel says her uncle never applied for a simple pardon. The clemency request Ericka Grandel provided to 10 On Your Side clearly states the request is for a conditional pardon.
Pardons in Virginia are processed by the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office but when 10 On Your Side contacted the office by phone, we were directed to the press office in the Governor’s Office.
An email was sent to the press office on January 31 and February 1. After the first email, a representative for the Governor told 10 On Your Side she was looking into the matter.
For now, Ericka Grandel remains hopeful but concerned about whether Youngkin will honor the initial posting from Northam’s last day. Her uncle turns 47 years old on February 5 at the Sussex II Prison in Waverly, Virginia.
“It is a concern of mine and I am just hoping and praying that it does come down to that. When they evaluate his petition, I hope they can see the same changed man that I see. He is a different person,” Ericka Grandel said.