GRAY — Lifting their eyes to the sky, about 40 people watched Tuesday night as their “letters to heaven” soared over the Jones County Courthouse and disappeared into the clouds.
The group gathered at Carol’s Park in a celebration of the lives of 11-year-old Bryan Moss, 15-year-old Kristin Moss and their father, Steven Moss, 37.
Several short notes to the Moss family were attached to the ribbons of balloons that were released.
“When (the balloons) get to heaven, they’ll get to see how much we love and miss them,” said Donya Dupree, of Gray, who went to school with Bryan and was a close family friend.
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Dupree said she got the idea of the “letters to heaven” after seeing a family release balloons annually in hopes their missing daughter would return home.
As a fifth-grader, Dupree said she took the news of the Moss family’s deaths hard and was taken to the hospital.
“I couldn’t calm down,” she said.
The two Moss children and their father were killed at their Griswoldville Road home April 23, 1998, as they arrived home separately from school and work. They walked inside their home to find two men inside committing a burglary. The Moss family members were shot and killed one at a time.
Dupree said she can remember attending birthday parties Bryan’s mother held at his grave. Those parties featured Whoppers, a cake, soft drinks and a balloon.
Gerri Ann Moss, mother and wife to the three who were killed, held the parties for her husband and daughter, as well, said Brittany Upshaw, of Macon. Each party featured their favorite things.
Upshaw, a friend of Kristin’s, said she initially planned to go to Jackson on Tuesday night to be at the prison when 31-year-old Brandon Joseph Rhode was to be executed for his part in the Moss killing.
She said she later decided not to go, instead attending the gathering in Gray.
“It would be better to come here and celebrate their lives,” Upshaw said.
Rhode was granted a temporary stay Tuesday afternoon by the Georgia Supreme Court. Rhode’s accomplice in the killings, Daniel Lucas, also is on death row, but his execution is under appeal.
Rebecca Noble of Macon, another of Bryan’s friends, said the gathering of friends in Gray had nothing to do with Rhode’s planned execution.
“We are just honoring their memory,” she said. “We wanted to let people know they had not been forgotten.”
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.