Outside of Palm Desert High School, friends, family and students gathered Tuesday to light candles in memory of Jill Grant. There were tears, but the candlelight vigil wasn’t a somber occasion. Grant’s family hoped it would shine light on the life Grant lived and put smiles on the faces of everyone who attended.
Known for her happy and bubbly personality, Grant was a Palm Desert High School graduate and a teacher there for nearly two decades.
Her body was discovered in a field in Indio just two days before last Christmas. Grant’s boyfriend, 43-year-old Michael John Franco, is accused in her murder and remains in jail.
“I try not to think about him to be perfectly frank. He had us all kind of fooled. He’s just a horrible person. He took my sister away and my parents daughter away, and students teacher away and friends,” said Grant’s brother, Michael Thomas.
Thomas said it’s been a year of daily battles without his sister. He hoped the candlelight vigil would help fill the tragic void, that the beloved teacher and sister will be forever absent.
“Everyday we think about her,” Thomas said. “They call it a year of firsts. You have your first mom’s birthday without Jill, dad’s birthday, Jill’s birthday and various holidays.”
Franco pleaded not guilty in the murder. Thomas said the court process is moving slowly. A preliminary hearing for long cause is scheduled for February.
“It’s kind of encouraging. It’s been described to us as a mini trial. The deputy DA will be there, the public defender, witnesses and law enforcement,” Thomas said.
Thomas wants justice for his sister and to continue giving back to students with an annual scholarship in herhonor.
“I just want to acknowledge it’s been a year and just show we remember her and are always thinking of her,” Thomas said.