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‘I am meant to be a testimony’ - Shot broadcaster

My child will come to motivate and inspire, says gunshot victim, broadcaster Jody-Ann Gray

BY JANICE BUDD Associate Editor — Sunday buddj@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 08, 2012    

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FROM her hospital bed came an upbeat and optimistic message from 28-year-old broadcaster Jody-Ann Gray.

“I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from people all over the world. I am grateful to God because this could be worse,” the seven-months pregnant Gray told the Jamaica Observer via text message on Friday after giving the police her statement.

Gray was said to be recovering well after being shot in a violent attack at her gate for which a co-worker and two men have been detained and are being questioned by the police.

The day before, against the odds, she had breezed through surgery to remove a bullet from her neck, which had lodged there when she was shot as she exited her car Wednesday night at the gate to her house in Golden Grove, Portmore.

How the popular Supreme Ventures television hostess, Kool FM announcer and former Fiwi Choice host came to be shot in the face and hand is officially a mystery, although there has been abundant public speculation about it.

The police are still interrogating Gray’s 44-year-old co-worker Wayne Whyte — with whom police allege she was romantically involved — and two other males.

Police said Whyte was driving the waiting car in which the shooter fled the scene. The police were able to quickly intercept the vehicle, which had crudely-made fake licence plates, and arrest the three men. The firearm believed to have been used in the shooting was later found on the scene.

Police reported that when the plates were removed, it was discovered that the motor car was registered to Whyte and a woman who shared his last name, of a Harbour View address.

“The broadcaster and the two other men remain in custody and will be questioned in the presence of their attorney,” said Collin Pinnock, senior superintendent in the St Catherine South Police Division, yesterday.

Police investigators say they have collected fresh information in the form of statements from the victim and her family but the senior cop shied away from making a comment about the possible motive for the attack.

“The police have received a number of reports and will be exploring all possible angles in the matter,” was all SSP Pinnock would say.

Since the shooting, Gray’s many friends on Facebook have rallied to her aid, posting their thoughts, prayers and wishes for her speedy recovery and the safety of her child, whom doctors say is in good health despite the trauma endured by Gray.

“Jody is in high spirits after surgery and is on the road to recovery from her physical and mental scars. Her family is asking that you respect her privacy and is grateful for all your prayers and good wishes. The investigations continue on the criminal end, with the key suspect still in custody. All we can now ask is for justice to run its course. Jesus said ‘you abide in me, and my word abides in you. You can ask anything in my name and I’ll surely give it to you’ (Sandra Crouch),” read the post of one close friend.

Subsequent updates gave progress reports on her physical condition after surgery.

“Guys, I’m happy to report that Jody is stable after a surgical procedure to remove a bullet lodged in her chin/neck region. By all accounts she is expected to have a full recovery and the baby is still comfortably onboard. You all should have heard by now that a suspect is in custody and being interrogated by the police. Hopefully justice will be swift and a strong signal will be sent to those who masterminded and executed the attempted murder of our friend, colleague and Godfearing Jamaican,” read another post.

But even with all this goodwill sent her way, nasty posts from random strangers caused the broadcaster to have someone pull her page from the social network site.

Close friend and fellow media worker, TVJ newscaster Janella Precius, who has been by her side since the shooting, said the injured broadcaster is a resilient young woman, who would overcome this horrific attack and rise again.

“I was very encouraged when I saw her; the swelling has gone down and she is very optimistic about making a recovery, especially because of the fact that she has her child,” said Precius, who grew close to Gray during their university internship programme at a local radio station some years ago. She was heartsick about her friend’s injuries, but marvelled at her spirit.

“What struck me is that despite everything, despite the bandage, I mean she looked a little disfigured, but she still was in high spirits. And you’re wondering like, ‘My girl, you nuh realise what just happen to you?’ You know? And she was very high-spirited and this is who Jody is, she just epitomises resilience. She just has this fire in her belly. No matter what happens, she always bounces back, and she never allows any adversity to keep her back.

“What is going to keep her going is the fact that she is carrying a life inside her,” she added.

Precius, like many of Gray’s friends, was shaken by how close she came to being killed, but all of them remain tightlipped about the swirling rumours about what was behind the near-fatal ambush, refusing to fuel speculation.

Precius did have something to say, however, about female media workers who are forced to live out their private lives in the public eye.

“Some other female media workers were discussing it yesterday (Thursday). You have to be so careful who you allow into your life, unfortunately, the people that you date, because it becomes a bigger issue, you’re out there in the public. People know you, and there are those who think they know you. But I know Jody is going to pull through,” said Precius.

Other friends, including former CVM sports journalist and advertising creative writer, Cassius Watson, said Gray’s energy was amazing.

“I’ve always been impressed by her drive from her intern days in the (CVM) programmes department. From then, she spelt out what she wanted to achieve in the business. I encouraged her to enter entertainment and it’s quite obvious she learned the ropes very quickly. She moved from What a gwaan to Hit List to On Stage to Fiwi Choice, along with being a popular Lotto Girl and radio presenter at Kool FM. Every time we spoke she wanted more, and attempted to make her grandmother, the woman she describes as her rock, very proud,” Watson told the Sunday Observer.

Previous articles written about the bright, talented and ambitious media worker, describe Gray as a young woman who has seen more than her fair share of hardship, including growing up without her birth parents; something she has spoken about publicly.

She was partially raised by her grandmother, who was eventually forced to send her to a boarding house on Mountain View Avenue when she could no longer take care of her.

A bumpy life followed, according to friends, including attempted suicide at a young age. Gray told a reporter in 2010 that years before, she had been verbally flayed by her absentee parents for failing her Common Entrance Examination. The distraught 10-year-old child set herself on fire, and bears the scars of that today.

But what followed was an upward trajectory marked by high achievement academically, while juggling student leadership responsibilities. She became head girl of Constant Spring Junior High School before moving to Merle Grove High, where she also ascended to head girl.

There, she got bitten by the media bug and broadcasts with FAME FM led her to the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication at the University of the West Indies, where she got her undergraduate degree and set her career as a female broadcaster in motion.

Sheer determination got her to her current job at Kool FM, where staff have reportedly been placed under a gag order. Tensions are said to be high among employees, appalled by the attempted murder on their pregnant, young media colleague.

Her friends and family, however, want to ensure she is protected until she recovers and returns to the beloved media fraternity, stronger and more determined than ever to be a success.

The eternally optimistic Gray herself texted this message to the Sunday Observer from her bed in her hospital room: “In every bad situation there is good, and in this situation I did not have to go far to realise that I am meant to be a testimony, and it is obvious that my child will also come to motivate and inspire. GOD BLESS YOU ALL!”

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