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Utah woman arrested in killing of her mother

Published November 27, 2012 9:47 pm

Victim had a protective order against daughter dismissed in July despite "volatile relationship."
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A Cottonwood Heights woman, with more than a decade of mental health and domestic violence issues on her record, was behind bars Tuesday after her mother was found stabbed to death in the home they shared.

Airida Maria Gruodis, 36, was being held without bail in the Salt Lake County jail on suspicion of first-degree felony aggravated murder and assault by a prisoner, a second-degree felony.

Cottonwood Heights police Sgt. Mark Askerlund said Gruodis, a Lithuanian immigrant, was arrested late Monday night after questioning by detectives. Her father, Peter Paul Gruodis, 60, also was booked into jail, but on an unrelated warrant for a past class B misdemeanor assault count. Police said he had been contacted in the past over alleged assaults against both his wife and daughter.

It was a traffic accident involving the father earlier Monday that led to police discover the body of Zita Gruodis, 58.

Peter Gruodis told Unified Police officers responding to the 3:30 p.m. accident near 9400 South and 2700 East that his wife "had just died and was dead at their home," Cottonwood Heights police Sgt. Gary Youngsaid Monday.

Officers entered the home at 7941 S. Chadbourne Drive (3450 East) and found the woman "deceased in her bed from numerous knife wounds," according to a jail probable-cause statement. Investigators seized numerous knives from the residence for forensic examination.

Police described Airida Gruodis as "evasive and dismissive when officers asked about her mother being deceased." Aware of the daughter's past record of violence and mental health issues, the officers decided to enter the home and found the victim in an upstairs bedroom.

Peter Gruodis, the statement claims, told investigators that his daughter and wife had a "volatile relationship." Neighbors told officers that "a couple days ago" they had heard the mother and daughter loudly arguing, according to the statement.

Police took both Peter and Airida Gruodis — who had to be put in a Tyvek protective suit after she lunged at the officers, biting one of them on the arm — into custody. They questioned them into late Monday night.

During questioning, the statement notes, Airida Gruodis admitted that she had been "off her medication and that the results [were] 'bad things happening.' " She also allegedly described her mother's injuries despite initially having denied seeing the dead woman's body.

The Gruodis family lives in a cul-de-sac made up of five identical duplex units in Cottonwood Heights.

Nicole McRae, who lives in a unit next door to the Gruodis home, said police and paramedics often seemed to be at the family's residence for one reason or another. Only a few days before Zita Gruodis' death, police were there because there was a car on fire in the driveway.

McRae described Airida Gruodis as "erratic." Gruodis often took repeated trips between her house and a stop sign at the end of the block multiple times a day for reasons McRae could never figure out. McRae said she wasn't a particularly friendly neighbor even though McRae tried to say hello to her whenever she was out.

Court records confirm a history of domestic violence between Zita Gruodis and her daughter. In 2001 and 2010, judges granted a protective order to the mother against her daughter, barring Airida Gruodis from having any contact with her.

The 2010 order proved ineffective and, in fact, resulted in criminal charges being filed against the daughter.

On Sept. 19, 2010, three days after she was served with the protective order, Airida Gruodis showed up at her mother's home.

She was charged in 3rd District Court with class A misdemeanor violation of a protective order, but pleaded no contest to a lesser class B misdemeanor count and was sentenced to one year of probation.

Then, on Feb. 4, 2012, Airida Gruodis violated the order again by coming to her mother's home and arguing with her, according to court documents. She was again charged with violation of a protective order, this time an enhanced third-degree felony count.

At the jail on Feb. 9, Airida Gruodis allegedly kicked a jail officer while refusing to go to court, resulting in a new charge of third-degree felony assault by a prisoner. In June, preliminary hearings for both cases were canceled after the court identified that the woman might have mental issues, according to a docket entry.

Meanwhile, Zita Gruodis wrote a letter to the court begging for her daughter's release from jail and dismissal of all charges. The letter, filled with grammatical and spelling errors, appears to state that the mother never wanted any a protective order filed against her daughter, and that Cottonwood Police had "fors" her to request it. The mother also wrote that her daughter suffered from bipolar disorder, but didn't have medications.

On July 16, the protective order was dismissed at the mother's request and Airida Gruodis' defense attorney requested her release from jail.

On July 17, Judge Denise Lindberg signed a release order that included a number of conditions, including monitoring by Pretrial Services and Valley Mental Health.

In August, Airida Gruodis was accepted into Mental Health Court, which provides specialized rehabilitation and treatment to criminal defendants. But she never attended, in part because during September and October she was at the University of Utah's Neuropsychiatric Institute, according to the court docket.

Review hearings in both the criminal cases are set for Dec. 11.

remims@sltrib.com

kbennion@sltrib.com