Killers Need Not Apply

GINA GRANT SOUNDS LIKE THE IDEAL Harvard prospect-so perfect, in fact, that in December the university mailed her one of its precious few early admission letters. She has a straight-A average at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Massachusetts and is co-captain of the tennis team. In her spare time, she teaches biology to disadvantaged middle-school students. And she did it all on her own. Grant, 19, has been an orphan since she was 14: waking herself up, cooking her own dinner, even paying her own taxes. But last week Harvard rescinded its acceptance when it learned of one item Grant left off her remarkable application. In 1990, when she was 14, Grant killed her mother.

Grant now says the killing 13 blows to the head with a crystal candlestick- -was self-defense. Her mother, Dorothy Mayfield, was an alcoholic who threatened her physically and verbally she says. (Her father died of cancer in 1987.) Though a boyfriend tried to make the incident look like suicide by plunging a knife into Mayfield's neck and placing her hand around its handle, Grant pleaded no contest to manslaughter and served six months in juvenile detention in 1991. She then left South Carolina, the site of the killing, and moved to Massachusetts. There, she apparently kept her tortuous past largely a secret. "I never heard one negative word about her," said Ruby Pierce, a Rindge and Latin administrator, in an April 2 Boston Globe article called "Beating the Odds," which recounts Grant's triumphs-without discussing her mother's killing. The reporter who wrote the story says she did not know about the killing; when asked. Grant said her mother's death was too painful to discuss.

After the Globe story appeared, Harvard received, anonymously, newspaper articles about Grant's trial. Although the university rarely revokes acceptances, it will in the event any part of the application contains misrepresentations," says Joe Wrinn, a Harvard spokesman. Grant answered "no" to a question that asks "if you have ever been dismissed, suspended or separated from school [or] placed on probation."

Grant's lawyer, Margaret Burnham, says her client believed her juvenile record was sealed and that she had no obligation to discuss it. "I deal with this tragedy every day on a personal level. it serves no good purpose for anyone else to dredge up the pain of my childhood," Grant said in a statement. Though she has applied to other colleges, it is unclear if the revelations about her mother will affect her standing at those unnamed schools. Some say it shouldn't. "This is a very bright and talented girl," says Marc Westbrook, the judge who presided over her manslaughter trial. "Every time her life started to take off, somebody was throwing a roadblock at her." But Michael Behnke, admissions director at MIT, told the Globe that he, for one, would have revoked Grant's admission and "probably" would not have accepted her if she had been candid about the murder. For Gina Grant, the odds keep getting longer.

Killers Need Not Apply | News