Survivor Activist Award
Award Recipient: Susan Curley Grady
Nominator: Janet MacKay, Executive Director, Victims Resource Center
Ms. Susan Curley Grady, victim/survivor activist, has successfully worked to make a difference for victims of crime in Pennsylvania since the death of her brother, Robert Curley, in 1991. In August of 1991, Robert was admitted to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital suffering from severe burning pains in his hands and feet; a symptom commonly experienced by individuals exposed to high levels of thallium. However, he was released due to the difficulty in detecting the thallium. Then, for ten days in early September of that year, he was admitted to the hospital again before being transported to Hershey Medical Center where doctors started to detect the thallium poisoning.
The last week of Robert’s life was spent confined to a hospital bed in leather straps, writhing in agony. Tests revealed that Robert was given a lethal dose of thallium which ended his young life at the age of 32. Ms. Grady, never left her brother’s side as he fought for his life, and she never gave up the fight for justice for Robert. Ms. Grady was present and involved during the entire criminal investigation, the pre-trial preparation, and the trial, which in total, lasted over five years. In 1997, Joann Curley, Robert’s wife plead guilty to the 1991 poisoning death of her husband and was sentenced to serve 10-20 years in prison.
During the years the case was under investigation and beyond, Ms. Grady channeled her experience into the victim services movement and began working in the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office Victim/Witness Unit, providing support to crime victims including other homicide survivors, and often accompanying them to trials. She could often be found sitting with families for hours at the courthouse, during the trial and sentencing phases of the case. She also became involved in the Luzerne County Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children. She has helped to organize chapter vigils in honor of victims, which she faithfully attends. Ms. Grady became involved in the work of the Victims Resource Center (VRC) and has attended the annual Crime Victims Rights Week rallies and has been a speaker at these events. When VRC had a high profile missing persons case, the staff reached out to Ms. Grady for her experiences in working with the media. Ms. Grady met with the family and VRC to discuss the issues as they relate to having the media tell your story.
Ms. Grady was instrumental in the passage of Senate Bill 508, which allows crime victims and their families the right to speak directly to the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (PBPP) when an inmate is being considered for parole. She pledged to change the law to have the parole board members hear from victims which would allow the board to see firsthand how it changed the lives of victims and their families. It was her persistency and commitment that made it happen by a unanimous vote of the State Senate. This bill was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law in June 2013 by Governor Tom Corbett. Governor Corbett, on signing the law, described the legislation as “a mountain top when it comes to victims”. In September 2013, Ms. Grady and her family were among the first to provide in-person testimony before the PBPP to oppose Joann Curley’s release from prison. Thanks to Ms. Grady this Bill will now provide hundreds of other survivors the same opportunity.
On behalf of victims of crime and the victim services field, we thank you, Ms. Grady, for your innovation, collaboration and unfailing commitment to victims of crime.