Famed journalist Nancy Grace got emotional multiple times at CrimeCon 2019 while talking about the murder of her fiancé, which she said proved to be the catalyst that pushed her to a career of prosecuting criminals.
The legal commentator and Oxygen contributor, whose new series, “Injustice with Nancy Grace,” premieres in July, told Oxygen Digital Correspondent Stephanie Gomulka at the convention that she was studying to be a Shakespearean English professor at Mercer University when her life changed forever.
“It was shortly before my wedding when my fiancé was murdered,” she said. “I dropped out of school and at some point, I went back to school. They let me back in to go to law school to become a felony prosecutor and that is how I ended up in the law. I had never planned to be a lawyer and I had never planned to be on TV of all things, never.”
Grace delved deeper into the 1979 murder of her fiancé, Keith Griffin, during her CrimeCon panel, “Injustice with Nancy Grace.”
“I was walking across campus and I looked over and I saw Keith Griffin,” she said, reminiscing about the day she met him. She added she immediately thought he was too handsome for her — but of course, that wasn’t the case.
“It took me about one month to break him and his girlfriend up and to move in,” she recalled. “So, we got engaged and planned our wedding.”
Those wedding plans were brought to a tragic halt one sunny, bright August day. Grace was taking one of her last exams, a statistics exam, when she was told to call Griffin’s sister.
“And I knew right then, Keith was dead,” she said.
Griffin, then 23, had left a construction site where he was working to fetch his co-workers sodas. He had taken the company truck out to fetch the soft drinks for his peers, and as he was coming back onto the site, a man who had been fired shortly before spotted the company truck. He then opened fire, Grace explained.
She said her fiancé was shot five times: in the face, in the neck, and in the head.
The killer, Tommy McCoy, was convicted and later released on parole in 2006, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
“And what I remember is I would say, ‘Keith, your eyes are so blue I think I can swim in them,’ and I thought right then it was all over and it felt like it was over and I dropped out of school and I couldn't eat and I couldn't stand to hear the clock on the wall,” Grace said at her panel about the aftermath of the shooting, getting visibly choked up on stage. She added she just couldn’t grasp that everything was carrying on as normal.
Growing up, she said hadn’t learned anything about crime or hatred. This murder changed all that, and in the midst of her grief, she became dead set on putting killers behind bars.
She went on to attend law school and became a special prosecutor in inner-city Atlanta. She worked for almost 10 years as Special Prosecutor for the Atlanta-Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney's office.
“After Keith’s murder, the life I had planned was over,” she recalled at her panel. “I knew I would never be a wife or a mother and I tried every way I could to sabotage any happiness that came my way. I only cared about one thing: putting the bad guy in jail and I would do anything, within the law, to do that and I did not care how bad my reputation was, what they said in the newspaper. It did not matter to me and I did not, and do not, care.”
Grace told Gomulka that her desire to put “bad guys away” became “insatiable.”
As for believing that she would never become a wife and a mother? In 2007, she married David Linch. They had a pair of twins together in 2008 whom Grace credits for making her become a better person.
“When I had the twins, I didn’t want them to have a bad mommy,” she told Gomulka, fighting back tears. “I didn't want them to have a mommy that wasn’t happy. I knew I had to change my life and I don’t think if it had ever been for the twins that I’d have ever been happy.”
Grace's first novel, “The Eleventh Victim,” published in 2009, appears to pull from her personal true crime tragedy. The book, a thriller, focuses on a student whose fiancé is murdered just weeks before they were supposed to wed, prompting her to change her career and become a prosecutor of violent criminals.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for Oxygen Insider for all the best true crime content.