A complicated homecoming: Six months after her mother’s murder in Jamaica, a daughter moves back into her childhood home

  • Letters and photographs found by Chandra Hardy in her mother’s home in Amherst. Her mother, Nancy Hardy, was killed in Jamaica in November 2018. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Letters and photographs found by Chandra Hardy in her mother’s home in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chandra Hardy looks over letters she found in her mother’s home in Amherst. Her mother, Nancy Hardy, was killed in Jamaica in November 2018. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chandra Hardy looks over letters she found in her mother’s home in Amherst. Her mother, Nancy Hardy, was killed in Jamaica in November 2018. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A photograph of Nancy Hardy with her daughter, Chandra Hardy. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chandra Hardy looks over letters she found in her mother’s home in Amherst. Her mother, Nancy Hardy, was killed in Jamaica in November 2018. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Chandra Hardy looks over letters she found in her mother’s home in Amherst. Her mother, Nancy Hardy, was killed in Jamaica in November 2018. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A photograph of Nancy Hardy with her daughter, Chandra Hardy, who is now back in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Nancy Hardy’s Amherst home, where her daughter, Chandra Hardy, now lives. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 5/20/2019 5:45:59 PM

AMHERST — Chandra Hardy still keeps handwritten letters she penned as a girl as a reminder of the frequent efforts she made to try to win the affection and approval of her mother, Nancy Hardy.

Found among stacks of personal papers inside her late mother’s home on Meadow Street, the letters demonstrate to Chandra Hardy that she never gave up on restoring that bond.

More surprising to her, though, is that her mother held onto those appeals and clearly cherished them.

“The biggest shocker is we both left the light on for each other,” Hardy said at her childhood home last week. “What I see is a mother hoping to have a relationship with her child. Why we couldn’t connect will always be a question in my mind.”

Nearly six months after her mother was murdered while wintering in Jamaica, where she had gone for more than 20 years to escape the cold weather that exacerbated a thyroid condition, it is unlikely Chandra Hardy will ever get a satisfactory answer to that question.

Going through these items means she is reliving painful memories of a childhood that was often difficult — she was in foster care twice, and her mother couldn’t always make ends meet — but the experience has still been cathartic for her.  

“Being here has been a surprising comfort to me,” Hardy said, adding that she is happy to return home with her two teenage children, having spent the previous 15 years managing the graduate information systems program at the University of Florida in Gainesville. She is currently applying for jobs. “The amount of support, and variety of ways I’ve received support, is overwhelming. People have come out of the woodwork.”

Along with the piles of papers, Hardy has found family photos, including ones of herself with her mother, and another showing her grandfather George Pettengill with Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie; a program from the April 2018 memorial service for her grandmother, Helen Hardy; and a large collection of reggae, Motown, jazz and gospel record albums.

Chandra Hardy is also in the process of renovating the Amherst home, already filling four large dumpsters with the out-of-compliance 1960s-era kitchen, including the stove she learned to cook on, and piles of carpet that were buried beneath the perimeter of the yard to keep weeds out of the garden, where her mother grew aloe plants. Even though her mother once sold Electrolux vacuums, there were only a handful of parts for those still in the dwelling.

She is also trying to resolve issues at her mother’s rental home in New Salem, which has mold and sewage problems.

There are challenges in doing this work, though, as an attorney represents Nancy Hardy’s estate, but not her daughter as a beneficiary. Still, Chandra Hardy said she feels a responsibility to get her mother’s affairs in order.  

She is also aware of that fact some friends of her mother do not feel she is entitled to an inheritance.

“What is so objectionable to me is those that say not being in touch with my mother means that I didn’t care about my mother,” she said. “I knew she had an illness, and I always wished her well even when not in her presence.”

Chandra Hardy says that she paid more than $5,000 to a funeral home in Jamaica, but her mother’s remains have not yet been returned, meaning she hasn’t been able to schedule a memorial service at the house in Amherst.

“It’s distressing to not be able to hold a service for her because I’m waiting for the ashes,” Hardy said.

She is also frustrated with the amount of information she has gotten from officials at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston.

“There could be more communication between agencies, between police, with the daughter of the murder victim,” Hardy said. “I am not unavailable for consultation.”

More questions arise

The U.S. Department of State, in an emailed statement, said that it is closely monitoring the case of Nancy Hardy.

“We continue to provide all possible consular support to Ms. Hardy’s family,” the statement reads, adding that generally, when an American citizen dies abroad, this assistance can include notifying next of kin and advising on matters such as how to make arrangements for local burial, return of the remains to the United States and help with the disposition of personal effects. 

Hardy is grateful that two suspects were arrested in March and are being brought to justice.

“Given the limited information I’ve read in the newspaper, it seems like they have strong evidence against the one man who is still in jail,” Hardy said.

The Gleaner of Jamaica reported in March that Kemar “Rasta” Grant, 33, of Orange Bay in the parish of Hanover, and Cedric “Smurf” Johnson, 32, of Alexandria, in the parish of St. Ann, were arrested March 12 in Alexandria for their roles in Hardy’s death.

Grant was arrested on a charge of murder, while Johnson was arrested on a charge of accessory to murder. Grant is still being held.

Hardy said a major complication for her is Nancy Hardy’s widower in Jamaica, the lack of a written will and how much of her mother’s estate he may be entitled to.

“The husband has expressed that he is going to come up here this summer and displace me and my children from my childhood home,” Chandra Hardy said.

Sherry Imhof of New Jersey was a friend to Nancy Hardy, whom she called “very loving,” and to her husband. Imhof said the marriage, which was a business arrangement, allowed Hardy to get both medical care and other help she needed while on the island. 

Because Chandra Hardy was estranged from her mother, Imhof told the Gazette that it is not right that she has moved back to Amherst and is interfering with what is due to the widower.

“He deserves to be in Nancy’s house,” she said. 

What the law allows, and what is right, just and ethical, may be different, Chandra Hardy said.

“I have yet to receive any condolence from this quote-unquote husband, any condolence at all,” Hardy said. 

Hardy added she believes her mother thought she was divorced, or that she was proceeding toward that goal.

“I have about 10 people willing to make sworn statements that my mom told all of them that this was a business sham marriage,” Hardy said. “I’m looking into the status of her marriage.”

Imhof said even though it was a business marriage, it was legitimate, and that the widower is entitled to his share of the inheritance.

However this matter gets resolved, Chandra Hardy said she believes she is following in the footsteps of her mother, and grandmother, as a hard worker.

“She worked herself to the bone,” Hardy said of her mother. “She worked so hard to have a little piece of the pie — to have it ripped away, and then to punish the biological child ... is adding to the tragedy.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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