I remember when I was in my 20s someone said to me, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” At the time, it didn’t really resonate. From time to time over the years, I would think about the strange configuration of the words and never the meaning of the sentence as a whole. The adage stuck in my head Saturday morning sometime around 2 a.m. as I was thinking about Stephen Groce, 44, an El Monte man who in an instant last Monday evening lost his entire family. Groce’s wife Dora, 41, and their two children, Robert, 8, and Catherine, 4, were driving to a doctor’s office, when their Nissan Maxima was broadsided by a car involved in a street race on Parkway Drive. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.A preliminary coroner’s report indicates that Dora died instantly in the collision. The children probably burned to death. I doubt Stephen knew those hideous details last week when he spoke to our reporter Fred Ortega and later appeared on KFI’s John and Ken Show. He told the talk show hosts that evening he was on his way home, passed the accident scene and didn’t even recognize his car. At some point, Groce was drawn to the intersection when a neighbor told him she thought his family might be involved. He walked over and spoke to a cop. “I asked him about my two kids. I mean I saw the yellow blanket over there covering my wife and I guess part of you doesn’t want to see that that. It really couldn’t be true,” Groce recalled. “And that’s when he told me they were all three deceased.” At the scene of the accident, police arrested Robert Canizalez, 19, of El Monte. He has been charged with three counts of murder and is being held in lieu of $3 million bail. A second man believed to have been involved in the race, Martin Morones, 21, of El Monte remained at large late Saturday. In the interest of full disclosure, I should report here that I have two sons who are roughly the ages of the Groce children. Reporters are supposed to approach stories like these without personalizing them. We are trained to be objective and reminded constantly to keep our feelings in check. As hard as I might try to be immune to the suffering of others, I have to admit that horrible stories like Stephen Groce’s tragedy strike a chord in me, perhaps for obvious reasons. In his conversation with KFI, Groce recalled how he would come home at night, sit down and help Robert, who attended Maxon Elementary School, with homework. Little Catherine, not old enough to attend school yet, would sit nearby and pretend she was doing homework too, Groce said. I remembered my own little guys doing the same thing. While Tom would struggle with writing or math problems, Matt would draw elaborate scribbles and ask if his homework looked good. Late in the KFI interview with Groce, Ken asked Stephen: “Are you going to be able to face these guys that did this?” His answer was simple and direct. “I don’t have a problem with standing and looking at them face-to-face. I want them to see what they did,” Groce said. “They destroyed my life. My wife and my kids were my life, that’s all I had. That’s all I wanted.” His voice wavering, Groce summed up his feelings at the end of the interview. “We had a great life,” he continued. “I mean we had two excellent, great, beautiful children and I will miss them so much.” And, there, but for the grace of God, go I. [email protected] (626) 962-8811 Ext. 2717 www.insidesocal.com/sgvcrime160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
Hammers boss Slaven Bilic is keen to bring Gokhan Tore and Atiba Hutchinson to the Olympic Stadium 1 West Ham have yet to agree a fee with Besiktas for in-demand duo Atiba Hutchinson and Gokhan Tore, according to reports in Turkey.Hammers boss Slaven Bilic is determined to secure the signings from his former club this summer and has been in contact with both men to try and persuade them to join the club.But, according to Takvim, West Ham have failed to match Besiktas’ valuation for both players.The Istanbul outfit are demanding a fee of around £16million for both players and have told West Ham they will not be available to discuss a deal until such a bid is made.