From a robbery widow, a sad perspective

Gerry and Mary Ellen Grovenburg
Gerry and Mary Ellen Grovenburg SUBMITTED PHOTO

Nothing can prepare a person for what Becky Bieker has experienced.

Bieker was wounded and her husband, Jon, was killed almost two weeks ago in a shootout at their gun store in downtown Shawnee.

But sadly enough, Mary Ellen Grovenburg of Spring Hill can honestly say she knows what Bieker must be going through.

Like Bieker, Grovenburg lost her husband in an armed robbery at her family’s small business, Mr. G’s Liquor Store in Shawnee. She reopened her business soon after, and she hopes Bieker will do the same.

It’s been a difficult road for Grovenburg since the shooting that left her husband, Gerry, dead in 2010. She has faced illness, battles with insurers and other unforeseen problems as a result of that robbery and conviction of the perpetrators. But she said she is glad she held on to the business and built it back up so it could be sold about a year later.

She and her husband had been planning their retirement after 40 years before the robbery occurred.

“Ninety percent of people were advising me to lock the door and walk away,” after the incident, said Grovenburg. “But I’m a fighter.”

She said she hopes Bieker will stay the course as well. “I would think that her husband would want her to continue,” she said.

Besides the shock and grief of losing her husband, the killing at Mr. G’s, 7635 Quivira Road, resulted in all kinds of snags most people wouldn’t think of, she said.

First was the damage to her business from the police investigation. “When they investigate your business they trash it out,” looking for fingerprints and other evidence, she said. The store was closed for two weeks, and it cost $5,000 to clean it up, she said.

The suspects had already fled when a customer found Gerry Grovenburg’s body. Police kept Mary Ellen and her son for questioning, and needing to be ruled out as a suspect was another thing she wasn’t ready for, she said.

However, that is where the Mr. G’s robbery differed from the one at She’s A Pistol. Both Biekers were in the gun store when four men came in, allegedly to rob it. A gunbattle ensued. In the Mr. G’s robbery, suspects had to be tracked down after the fact.

Charges are pending for the four alleged to have committed the She’s A Pistol robbery and murder.

Two men were eventually convicted in connection with the Mr. G’s robbery.

Despite the mess and questioning, though, Mary Ellen Grovenburg commended the detective and prosecutors for their tenacity in handling her case.

After she reopened, it was tough getting business back, she said.

“A lot of customers were afraid to come in because it was the scene of a murder,” Grovenburg said.

Men who knew Gerry were particularly reluctant, she said. “It blew them away that that happened to him,” Grovenburg said.

There were also battles with insurance companies, she said. Her husband’s life insurance took a year to rule out Mary Ellen and her son as murderers, she said, and her health insurer also was slow in paying.

Grovenburg said she couldn’t have done it without the support of her son, Michael, who helped with the business.

Grovenburg has not met Betty Bieker, but had planned to go take a gun course at She’s a Pistol, she said. Friends had recommended it to her because the classes are oriented to women. But she said her dialysis treatments kept her away.

The robbery and murder of her husband “certainly didn’t give me a happy retirement,” she said.

“But it didn’t destroy my life,” because she refuses to give that much power to the criminals who did it.

Crime in the neighborhood around the liquor store, which is about three miles from She’s a Pistol, had been increasing before the incident, but the area wasn’t well-patrolled by police at the time, she said.

“My husband’s death, if it did anything positive, alerted them that things have changed and we need to step up policing in the area,” she said. “It was a wake-up call for them.”