Archive

Missing woman Cassandra Gross’ family asks judge to declare her legally dead | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Missing woman Cassandra Gross’ family asks judge to declare her legally dead

443576CassandraGross
Family photo
Cassandra Gross was reported missing on April 9, 2018.
443576CassandraGross1

Cassandra Gross, missing since spring, still has not been found, but her family wants her to be legally declared dead.

A hearing is set for January to consider the request filed by Gross’ son, Brandon Diebold of North Carolina. Gross, who would have turned 52 in May, was last seen April 7.

If a Westmoreland County judge approves the motion, it would allow Diebold access to the funds in Gross’ credit union account and 401(k). The Unity woman did not have a will.

If someone is declared dead, the administrator of that person’s estate would have access to the assets left behind and other rights, said attorney Ken Burkley, who spoke generally about the process and is not involved in Gross’ case.

“The administrator would be acting in the place of the decedent,” Burkley explained.

Gross’ parents reported her missing April 9 — the same day her blind and diabetic dog, Baxter, was found alone in the Beatty Crossroads area.

The next day, her burned red 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander was spotted by Norfolk Southern employees in a wooded area along train tracks near Twin Lakes Park. Authorities have been seen this year searching near Unity Cemetery and on two Unity properties owned by Thomas G. Stanko, 48, who is being held in the Westmoreland County Prison on unrelated charges. One of those properties abuts the cemetery on White Fence Lane, where Stanko’s mother lives.

Gross’ family believes she was killed. No arrests have been made. Police continue to investigate.

Several reasons to establish Gross’ death were listed in the court filing, including:

• Searches for her by state police have been unsuccessful.

• Offering up a $10,000 reward for information leading to her whereabouts has been fruitless.

• Her accounts have remained inactive since April 7.

• Troopers have told her family that they “have a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence that she is deceased.”

State law says a judge can be petitioned at any time for a legal declaration with a date of death after someone “is absent from his place of residence without being heard of after diligent inquiry.” A person who has not been heard from for seven years, and whose date of death may be in question, can be presumed dead under state law.

Judge Anthony Marsili ordered that notice of the Jan. 22 hearing be posted in the Latrobe area, in a newspaper and in the Westmoreland Law Journal weekly for four weeks. The notice states that anyone with information about Gross’ whereabouts is asked to attend the hearing or contact attorney L. Christian DeDiana, who filed the motion.

DeDiana could not be reached Wednesday.

A similar situation played out in Westmoreland County court in October 1996, when a judge declared Ada Jane Groomes legally dead after she had been missing for eight years. Police believed Groomes, 54, had been killed, but no one has ever been arrested and her body has not been found. Some of her children believed their father — with whom Groomes co-owned Groomes Transportation Co. in East Huntingdon — was involved in her Oct. 7, 1988, disappearance.

The couple had separated two years earlier. Groomes’ estranged husband got control of the family’s assets after the death declaration. He died in 2011.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.