Victim's mentally ill daughter arrested in stabbing death

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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — The daughter of a woman found dead inside her Cottonwood Heights home is accused of stabbing her mother multiple times.

Airida Maria Gruodis, 36, was arrested shortly after midnight and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail. Cottonwood Heights police investigators feel confident she will be the only person arrested in connection with the death of her mother, Zita Gruodis, 58.

An autopsy was scheduled to be performed by the state medical examiner on Tuesday to determine an exact cause of death. A Salt Lake County Jail report, however, noted that her body was discovered with "numerous knife wounds."

Documents say neighbors reported hearing an argument between the suspect and the deceased a couple of days ago, which police believe was the time of death.

I was saddened because when I heard what happened, I pretty well suspected what the ultimate cause was.

–David Sollis, landlord

"I was saddened because when I heard what happened, I pretty well suspected what the ultimate cause was," said David Sollis, landlord of the Gruodis' home.

After spending 10 years in the home, Sollis said Zita Gruodis was more than just a tenant, she was like family. He described Airida Gruodis as a thorn in everyone's side since she was released from a mental hospital three years ago.

"I just know that she was a serious risk to her mother, and has been for the last couple of years," Sollis said. "She was was a threat to society and has been since they let her out."

Zita Gruodis' body was discovered Monday afternoon in her bed at her home on Chadbourne Drive. Police learned of her death after her husband Peter, ran his car off the road in Little Cottonwood Canyon. According to jail documents, he told police he was distraught because his wife was dead at their home.

Police say, according to Peter Gruodis, he had approached his daughter about his wife's death and Airida Gruodis "responded with indifference."

Overnight police searched the home, which resulted in "numerous items" of evidence related to the crime being collected, said Cottonwood Heights Police Sgt. Gary Young.

Airida Gruodis History
  • August 2012 - Accepted into Mental Health Court; charged with assault by a prisoner.
  • February 2012 - Charged with violating a protective order after she showed up at her mother's house.
  • 2011 - Pleaded no contest to an amended charge of attempted violation of an protective order; sentenced to probation.
  • 2010 - Found guilty of misdemeanor assault resulting from separate domestic violence cases and intoxication.
  • 2010 & 2001 - Zita Gruodis sought protection orders from her daughter.

Documents show Airida Gruodis was under the jurisdiction of Mental Health Court and admitted to being off mental health medication, which usually resulted in "bad things happening."

Court records show a history of abuse in the family dating back more than a decade.

"We have been (at their home) several times," Young said. "The family is known to us and we have responded to domestic disturbances in the past."

Zita Gruodis had a protective order filed against her daughter, who earlier this year was arrested for violating that order. Neighbors told KSL Airida Gruodis had mental health issues and was not supposed to be living at the home.

"Thinking about all the history that we've seen in the house, we know there's been violence there," said a neighbor named Sheri. "So, (it's) not really surprising. (But) it's always a shock when you hear something like that."

Forensic psychiatrist B. Todd Thatcher told KSL News it can be a battle when dealing with adults who have civil rights. The biggest problem, he said, is getting patients to stay on medication.

"People don't understand what we can do and what we can't do," Thatcher said. "We simply can't force people into treatment."

Peter Gruodis, 60, was also arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on an unrelated outstanding warrant for domestic violence.

Airida Gruodis was also booked for assault by a prisoner. Police say during her arrest, she lunged at an officer and bit another one. In April she was charged with the same thing after kicking a police officer during transport.

Contributing: Pat Reavy


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