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Man kills wife, granddaughter; gets life in prison

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YORK, S.C. (AP) - A suicidal South Carolina man was sentenced to life in prison for killing his bedridden wife and their 9-year-old granddaughter, saying he wanted to spare them the pain of living without him, prosecutors said.

Ronald Gregory shot his wife, 71-year-old Barbara Gregory, and his granddaughter Mia Rodgers, on March 21. Gregory told detectives that Mia survived for an hour, but instead of calling for help, Gregory held Mia as she bled to death, prosecutor Kevin Brackett said.

The prosecutor recounted some of the girl's last words as people in the courtroom sobbed Monday.

"When am I going to stop hurting?" Brackett said, quoting the girl.

After his granddaughter died, Gregory went to the bank and withdrew tens of thousands of dollars. He then called 911, asked the operator to send police to his home and shot himself twice in the chest, but he survived.

Gregory, 68, pleaded guilty but mentally ill to two counts of murder. He was sentenced to life without parole. The plea means he will get extra mental health counseling in prison.

Gregory acted as his own lawyer. He said little in court and did not apologize.

"In over 20 years of prosecuting, this is just a ghastly case. The thought of what the child went through is unimaginable," Brackett said.

Gregory and his wife were in a custody battle over their granddaughter with her other grandparents after the girl's mother died last year.

Just before she died, Gregory took his granddaughter to the doctor because he was afraid she had suffered brain damage from inhaling fumes when she got some press-on fingernails, Brackett said.

The girl's other grandfather, Paul Rodgers, said the family plans a wrongful death lawsuit against Gregory for lying during the custody battle.

Gregory "called me the morning before when he took her to the doctor and said she was fine," Rogers said. "If he doesn't want her to be in pain, then why shoot her?"

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