Preview: Neighbors go to war when an older man obssesses over the boundary lines of his property and won’t let his neighbors anywhere near it. -Driveway of Death, Fear Thy Neighbor (S2, E3)
Korean War veteran John Kenney fatally shot and killed his neigbors Mel and Elizabeth Grimes on January 29, 2007 in Carmel Valley, California. In the beginning, the three were friends and Elizabeth even looked after John’s house when he was gone for months at a time. And the Grime’s dog used to visit John on his property. The two neighbors got along great although they were very different. John was neat and tidy and his yard wasn’t cluttered whatsoever. The Grimes home on the other hand was decorated in their own way. They collected some odd stuff but only John could see it. The problems began when John’s need for order kicked into overdrive and he began to assert himself. John started complaining about the dog digging holes and invasive plant species. John and the Grimes also had to share a driveway and the Grimes had to cross over a small piece of John’s property to get to their carport. The arrangement had worked for years until a shared bridge needed to be repaired.
John and the Grimes shared a road with a bridge in need of repair. Mel Grimes offered to fix it and told John he had a lot of people who owed him labor. John Kenney didn’t want to cut corners and told Mel he wanted everything to be built to code. And then a short time later, on his own, Kenney hired an engineer to draw up the plans. Afterwards, he handed a bill to the Grimes and expected them to pay half. The Grimes didn’t want to pay for half of the cost of the engineer because they felt they could have done it cheaper. John went to court and sued the Grimes for the portion of the bill they should pay for and the court ruled in John’s favor. John wasn’t the only one in disputes with the Grimes. Another neighbor complained about the Grimes using their land as a dumping ground too. This neighbor said the Grimes dumped invasive plant species on his property and the behavior didn’t stop until they were reported; the Grimes mostly complied with the city ordinances.
John Kenney started getting really upset about the Grime’s dog making a mess on his property. The dog was defecating on another neighbor’s property as well. Kenney’s obsession with order and the Grime’s chaos clashed once again and this time it was over the shared driveway. Kenney decided to draw a line in the sand and assert his property rights. He told the Grimes not to drive over his property anymore to get to their carport. The Grimes blew him off because it was a very small piece of land and the only way to get to their carport. In response, the Grimes put up no trespassing signs on their property facing John Kenney. He was the only one who could see the signs and Kenney thought they were trying to provoke him. The Grimes also blared loud music in their yard in what seemed to be another aggressive move. John turned to City Hall for help and started reporting the Grimes for out of code buildings on their land. They both reported each other for building without a permit.
According to the Mel and Elizabeth’s son, the couple wanted John Kenney to leave and Mel Grimes was the type to fight back and never back down to a bully. But some in the neighborhood felt the Grimes were the bullies. The shared driveway made things complicated between John Kenney and the Grimes. As a result, the issue went to court and this decision didn’t go in Mel Grimes way either. John Kenney planted a garden on the dirt patch in front of the Grimes’ carport to stake out his property. When Mel came home from work, he ran over the garden that blocked his access to his carport and destroyed it with his vehicle. John started taking pictures of Mel destroying the plants with his car. Elizabeth ran out and grabbed John Kenney’s camera which was attached to him with a lanyard. As a result, John slammed his head and was harmed in the process. John felt threatened by the Grimes and thought the neighbors wanted to kill him. The Grimes felt imprisoned in their own home.
This escalating feud was confusing to those on the outside. Some bystanders felt for John Kenney and some felt for the Grimes. No one ever imagined it would escalate the way it did. Elizabeth attempted to resolve the situation in her own way. She knew where John went to church and wrote to John’s pastor. But this did nothing to resolve the bitter disagreement and John fired back with a letter in response. Nothing ever came of this exchange either so Elizabeth went public. She went to John’s church and interrupted a bible study meeting he attended and asked them for prayer and resolution. She questioned how John could be at a bible study meeting and harass them at the same time. Elizabeth felt this was hypocrisy. Now John didn’t feel safe anywhere and filed a restraining order. The restraining order required that both parties turn in their guns. John did not tell the courts he had a gun; the Grimes turned in a decorative gun. Mel developed an irregular heartbeat due to the stress.
It was hard to avoid one another when John Kenney and the Grimes had to share a driveway. John Kenney wasn’t backing down either. On January 29, 2007, Kenney had a boulder delivered to stake out his property in front of the Grimes’ carport. This made it impossible for the Grimes to get to their carport. Kenney knew that rock would get a reaction out of Mel and he would blow a fuse. When Mel returned home from work, he began destroying the rock so he could gain access to his carport. Elizabeth called the police to resolve the situation and asked Mel not to touch the boulder because she wanted the police to handle it. Once John Kenney realized Mel Grimes was destroying the boulder, Kenney reached his boiling point and confronted the Grimes with a gun in hand. When police got to the scene, they found two gunshot victims. Mel Grimes was dead and Elizabeth Grimes was shot but still alive. Elizabeth told the police John Kenney was the one who shot them.
John Kenney was arrested for two homicides because Elizabeth died en route to the hospital. The neighbors were shocked that things escalated to this kind of violence. The tragedy created a split in the community. Kenney’s fellow church members couldn’t believe he committed first degree murder and supported his claims of self defense. John Kenney said he shot the Grimes because he was attacked with a sledge hammer first. But the forensic evidence and recorded 911 call said otherwise. While Elizabeth was on the phone with 911, John Kenney walked down his driveway with a loaded, concealed gun. When John Kenney reached the Grimes, he pushed Elizabeth out of the way and out of instinct Mel came to her rescue. It was at this time, Kenney pistol whipped Mel Grimes and then shot him. Mel Grimes’ DNA was found on the weapon and the head injuries on Mel were consistent with blows to the head. John Kenney didn’t stop there.
After shooting Mel Grimes, Kenney turned the gun on Elizabeth and shot her. The 911 recording captured the last words the Grimes said to each other as they lay on the ground with gunshot wounds. “I love you.” An investigation revealed that Elizabeth was shot while she was laying on the ground next to her husband. She attempted to protect herself and block the bullets with her arms. John was heard on the 911 recording saying “welcome to hell Elizabeth” before he shot her in the back. John Kenney went to trial and was found guilty of the first degree murder of Elizabeth Grimes and second degree murder of Mel Grimes. Kenney was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. What John Kenney didn’t know was Elizabeth and Mel Grimes had purchased a home in Hawaii and were planning to move. The Grimes’ family found solace with the fact that Elizabeth and Mel got to say I love you to one another before they died together.
In the News:
John Kenney, the Carmel Valley man accused of killing two of his neighbors, is set to appear at a preliminary hearing. -KSBW Action News 8 (October 26, 2007)
A preliminary hearing has begun for Carmel Valley resident John Kenney, who is accused of killing neighbors Mel And Elizabeth Grimes. -KSBW Action News 8 (October 29, 2007)
KSWB reports on John Kenney, the Central Coast man ordered to stand trial for the murder of his neighbors and the fate of the couple’s dogs. -KSBW Action News 8 (December 21, 2007)
Prosecutors say they are seeking a new trial for perjury charges. -KSBW Action News 8 (March 21, 2008)
A 911 call was played out in court Wednesday in the case of a Carmel Valley man accused of killing his neighbors. -KSBW Action News 8 (April 3, 2008)
Almost 800 people have been summoned for jury duty, one of the largest jury pools for a trial in Monterey County. -KSBW Action News 8 (May 6, 2008)
Jury selection continued and the judge made a ruling that could give a glimpse into John Kenney’s mind. -KSBW Action News 8 (May 7, 2008)
The prosecutor in the John Kenny murder trial was removed from the case. -KSBW Action News 8 (May 16, 2008)
A new development is revealed in the case against John Kenney, the man accused of murdering his neighbors, Mel and Elizabeth Grimes. -KSBW Action News 8 (August 11, 2008)
The defense attorneys for John Kenney argued in court Wednesday about calling witnesses that would show Elisabeth Grimes had a propensity for aggressive behavior. -KSBW Action News 8 (August 13, 2008)
The jury for the trail of John Kenney was seated Wednesday afternoon and opening arguments were scheduled for Friday. -KSBW Action News 8 (August 20, 2008)
The jury in the trial of John Kenney visited the scene where Kenney is accused of killing Mel and Elizabeth Grimes. -KSBW Action News 8 (August 25, 2008)
A U.S. Army colonel testified on Tuesday as a character witness as the testimony phase of the John Kenney trial continued. -KSBW Action News 8 (August 26, 2008)
The deputy who failed to respond to John Kenney’s call for help testified Wednesday about what happened the day Mel and Elizabeth Grimes were shot. -KSBW Action News 8 (August 27, 2008)
The Carmel Valley man accused of killing his neighbors took the stand Thursday in his own defense. -KSBW Action News 8 (August 28, 2008)
John Kenney took the stand for the second day in a row Friday and attempted to explain what happened the day Mel and Elizabeth Grimes were shot to death. -KSBW Action News 8 (August 29, 2008)
An attorney formerly employed by John Kenney testified that he suggested the boulder be placed as a barrier on the disputed land. -KSBW Action News 8 (September 2, 2008)
The brother of one of the victims shot and killed by John Kenney testified Wednesday in court. -KSBW Action News 8 (September 3, 2008)
The former security consultant hired by John Kenney testified that he told Kenney to stay inside his home when Mel Grimes came home from work. -KSBW Action News 8 (September 8, 2008)
The final witnesses were called by the defense Tuesday in the trial of John Kenney. -KSBW Action News 8 (September 9, 2008)
The jury received their instructions from the judge presiding over the trial of John Kenney on Wednesday. -KSBW Action News 8 (September 10, 2008)
Closing arguments wrapped up Thursday in the trial of a Carmel Valley man accused of killing his neighbors. -KSBW Action News 8 (September 11, 2008)
Closing arguments ended and jury deliberation began on Friday in the trial of a Carmel Valley man accused of killing his neighbors. -KSBW Action News 8 (September 12, 2008)
Jurors visited the scene on Monday where a Carmel Valley man is accused of killing his neighbors. -KSBW Action News 8 (September 15, 2008)
John Kenney was sentenced to life without parole on Monday for killing his former neighbors, Mel and Elizabeth Grimes. -KSBW Action News 8 (November 3, 2008)
ID Go: In the idyllic hills of Carmel Canyon, California, wealthy neighbors get into a dispute over everything from shared roads and bridges to upkeep of their respective properties. Anger finally boils over and the feud is resolved with fatal gunfire. -Driveway of Death, Fear Thy Neighbor (S2, E3)
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Elizabeth Rosnack Grimes (1951-2007) | Find A Grave
Melvin Noble “Mel” Grimes, Jr (1948-2007) | Find A Grave
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