Los Angeles

‘It Still Hurts': Father Searches for Answers in Decades-Old Unsolved Child Murder

Kenneth Gridiron says police have ignored the death of his young son for decades

In a field of green grass and chunks of brown dirt, a grieving father kneels at an unmarked grave site.

The official marker reads "1995." There is no other indication as to who is buried there. Only makeshift memorials hold any clues as to the lives that were lost.

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In this dirt grave, Los Angeles County cremated and entombed the remains of more than 1,800 people who were unidentified at the time of their death including the son of Kenneth Gridiron, Sr.

"My son was a happy child. I took him everywhere," said Gridiron, who stops mid-sentence because emotion overtakes him.

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"It hurts. It just hurts. After all these years it still hurts and it seems like nobody cares," he said.

Gridiron's son, Kenny Gridiron Jr., disappeared in the mid-1980s. That was the last time he saw his son who was only a toddler when he vanished.

In 1994, an anonymous tip let LAPD detectives to a Public Storage unit where they made a grisly discovery; the skeletal remains of a child encased in cement. According to a Los Angeles Coroner's report, the child was approximately four years old when he was killed.

At the time, police were investigating a similar case involving the murder of another child and had tests performed on the remains found at the storage unit. In a statement to NBC4, LAPD said "the remains were never positively identified" or linked to that other case.

That was the last time Gridiron Sr., heard anything from law enforcement about what happened to his son.

"For 32 years, 32 years, my son has been missing," said Gridiron Sr. "I think about him a lot. Every time I see kids you know from 2 on up it bothers me because that was my only child." 

Gridiron Sr. had no photos of his son. He has nothing tangible to remember him by. There are only the memories of the few years they spent together. And for decades he's been living without an answer about what happened to his child.

"It still hurts because there ain't nobody caring," said Gridiron Sr.

But someone did care. Dana Orent, a former police detective turned private investigator, stumbled across the coroner's report for Kenny Jr. while researching another case.

"It made me sick to be honest with you that a child of that age could just be disregarded and no one seemed to care about him," said Orent. "When you have a child as a victim, those cases typically get solved fairly quickly."

Orent took on the case pro-bono and reached out to the family using information from the coroner's report. He located Gridiron Sr. and arranged for the Coroner to conduct a DNA test in October of 2016. This time, test results were positive for the boy.

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After decades of uncertainly, his father finally knew his son was dead and, according to the coroner's office, the victim of a homicide.

Now that the boy was identified by the coroner as being Kenny Jr., Orent and Gridiron Sr. were certain they'd hear from LAPD detectives. Surely after all these years, they would be eager to speak with the father, let him know that his son was murdered, and try to identify a suspect in the slaying.

"To this date, a year later, it's never happened. No one from the LAPD has ever contacted Kenneth Sr. to notify him that his son was identified," said Orent.

Orent says he repeatedly reached out the department but hasn't heard anything about the investigation. He even wrote a letter in June to LAPD's Chief Charlie Beck. Orent wrote, "the father still has not been contacted or notified by your department of his son's discovery and identification."

He added, "being retired and a representative of law enforcement, to my frustration and embarrassment, Kenneth Gridiron Sr. still has not been contacted by your department. You can imagine the grief and anger this father is feeling and has expressed."

The NBC4 I-Team asked the LAPD for information about the case. The department declined an interview but sent a statement to NBC4. In it, officials say, "This month, RHD [Robbery-Homicide Division] received confirmation from the Coroner's Office that the DNA test between Kenneth Gridiron Sr. was a match to the the [sic] remains of missing juvenile Kenneth Gridiron Jr. This is an on-going investigation, for which Newton Detectives will assume investigative responsibility."

Orent and Gridiron dispute the LAPD's timeline. They say they the department has known about Kenny Jr. for over a year and they've reached out repeatedly to both the police officials and the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office.

"I've never seen a case where a child is involved as being a victim of something this heinous and there just seems to be no interest whatsoever from law enforcement," said Orent.

So who killed Kenny Jr.? Orent believes it's a woman already in prison for committing a similar crime; the subject of LAPD's initial investigation in 1994. That child was also encased in cement. That woman has been serving time for murder and is up for parole. Kenneth Sr. and Orent fear she may go free if she's not charged with the death of Kenny.

In their statement, LAPD says they will re-examine that case "in addition to any other investigative leads, to determine conclusively the events surrounding the death of Kenneth Jr."

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As Gridiron Sr. waits for news from law enforcement, he wants visitors to the gravesite to know his son is no longer one of the nameless 1800. Using pen and paper, Gridiron Sr. created a makeshift memorial to his child. It marks his name, birthdate and the date his father found out that Kenny Jr. was murdered.

"I'd like to see justice done. That's what I would like to see for little Kenny and that would put him to rest. He can go to rest now," said Gridiron Sr.

Click here to read the complete statement for the Los Angeles Police Department.

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