ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Margaret "Peggy" Park thought she had found her dream job. Three years out of Ohio State University and just 26, she was working as a Florida wildlife officer patrolling the lush Brooker Creek nature preserve near Tampa.
Her life ended suddenly on Dec. 13, 1984, after she happened upon two teenagers in the woods with a stolen gun. One of them, Martin Edward Grossman, then 19, brutally beat Park with her flashlight and, prosecutors said, finished her off with a shot to the back of the head from her own gun. He was convicted of first-degree murder.
Grossman, after 24 years on death row, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Florida State Prison near Starke.
"It's long overdue," said Margaret Park, the victim's 79-year-old mother who lives in suburban Columbus, Ohio. "He had very good representation all the way through. I think he's been treated very fairly by the state of Florida. I don't take any pleasure in an execution, but it's time."
An animal lover who enjoyed camping with her family while growing in the Columbus suburb of Bexley, Peggy Park earned a degree in natural resources and wildlife management from Ohio State in 1981. She graduated from wildlife officer recruit school in 1982 and was assigned to Pinellas County, across the bay from Tampa.
Gary Morse, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman who worked closely with Peggy Park back then, remembers her as a "people person" who enjoyed helping him teach hunter education classes.
"Peggy was a dedicated officer, but she was really a sweetheart," Morse said. "She really loved animals, particularly wildlife."
Peggy Park "was the type of person who was everyone's friend," her mother said. "I don't think she had a mean bone in her body."
On the day she was killed, according to court records, Park came upon the two teenagers shooting the stolen handgun. Grossman, who lived in nearby New Port Richey and was on probation from a burglary conviction, begged Park not to turn him in. He had gotten out of prison back in the summer and didn't want to return.
As she walked back to her vehicle to call in the information, Grossman - a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier than the diminutive Park - attacked, hitting her 20 to 30 times with her heavy flashlight as she got in the car. She managed to get off an errant shot and disable the other attacking teen with a kick to the groin before Grossman wrested her gun away and shot her in the head.
Margaret "Peggy" Park Martin Grossman
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