A 16-year-old Northampton County boy is dead after officials say he was robbed and murdered while on a trip to Michigan. It happened last week, and now his family from Walnutport is not only struggling with the emotional loss, they are also having problems brining his body home for burial.
"I can't teach him to drive, I'll never have grandchildren from him."
Choking back tears and clutching a picture of her son Joshua Stepp-Gross, It's hard to put into words the grief April Stepp-Gross is feeling.
"Just hurting, so much pain, my first born," said Stepp-Gross.
While visiting Michigan last week with a friend to attend a memorial service, Stepp-Gross was shot and killed during a violent armed robbery. Michigan police tell 69 News he was in "the wrong place at the wrong time."
"I been trying to get him home since then," said Stepp-Gross.
No amount of money will bring Stepp-Gross back, but it will give the family the chance to say good-bye to a life lost too soon.
"They're telling me it's gonna cost $2,000 to have him embalmed and prepared and put on an airplane to fly him home."
$2,000 the family doesn't have.
Friends and family have stepped up and are working to raise the funds to return Josh's body for burial. About a dozen local stores have canisters collecting money towards the cause. And that's not all they have planned. This Saturday there will be a car wash at the Advanced Auto in Lehighton. All of the money raised will be used to help bring Josh home.
"I want to break down and I can't because everybody depends on me," cried Stepp-Gross. "I need to be strong for my son, and give him the proper resting that he needs."
This weekend's fundraiser at Advanced Auto starts at noon.
Money aside, Stepp-Gross first needs to overcome a separate hurdle. Her son's body has still not been released by the coroner, despite the fact that he was killed on June 11th.
Michigan has strict laws about the identification of a dead body. Stepp-Gross said she was required to send something that would provide the coroner with "scientific proof" that the body was Josh's. She said she's sent X-Rays of his wrist because he broke it when he was younger. Because of that proof, she said the coroner's told her his body should be released in the next few days.
An arrest has been made in connection with Josh's death in Michigan.
A man is charged with murder, armed robbery and felony firearm charges.
Police in Michigan say this was a case of Josh being in "the wrong place at the wrong time."
If you'd like to help Josh Stepp-Gross' family, you can mail checks to:
Joshua Gross c/o Constance Stepp
People's First Bank
3682 Crescent Court East
Whitehall, Pa. 18052