NORFOLK — A man confessed to pouring gasoline on his immobile wife in April and burning her alive, according to newly released court documents.
Delano Grangruth, 58, told police he doused his wife, 61-year-old Kathleen White-Grangruth, with gasoline, lit her on fire and then ran out of their home, homicide Detective Matthew Nordan said in an affidavit seeking permission to search Grangruth’s clothes.
He’s been charged with second-degree murder and burning a building with the intent to commit a felony. He’s in the Norfolk jail and is scheduled to go to court next month.
In the days after his wife’s death, Grangruth said it was “a terrible and unfortunate incident” in an interview with WAVY-TV. He said they’d been married more than 20 years, that she had dementia and used a wheelchair, and that he was her primary caregiver.
When a reporter asked him if he’d killed his wife, Grangruth wouldn’t answer. “I can’t say yes or no on that,” he said. “My day will come in court.”
But he wanted to make sure people knew something: “I’m not a monster.”
On Tuesday, Grangruth declined, through his jailers, to talk about the charges against him with The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Col. Mike O’Toole said.
Around 10:30 a.m. on April 17, firefighters went to the couple’s house in the 6200 block of Wailes Ave. after White-Grangruth’s caregiver knocked on the door, got no answer, smelled something burning and then called 911, Nordan said.
When firefighters forced their way in, they found what they thought was an elderly woman, the detective said. She was sitting in a chair and had been badly burned.
The high oxidation levels visible on the metal of the chair, as well as the amount of carpet that burned, suggested an accelerant had been used, Nordan said.
White-Grangruth used a wheelchair and was unable to move freely on her own, he added.
Officers who patrolled the area knew Grangruth traveled by bike and eventually found him on Military Highway, Nordan said.
Grangruth told detectives he and his wife had a serious fight the night before, so he went to a bar and slept there. He said it was the first time he’d been away from his house or had a drink in four years.
Later, he admitted he’d lit his wife on fire, Nordan said.
White-Grangruth died from “acute thermal injuries” in a homicide, said Donna Price, administrator of the state chief medical examiner’s Norfolk office.
White-Grangruth suffered from dementia and schizophrenia, caretaker Katrina Banks said the day White-Gangruth died. She needed a wheelchair after having hip surgery years ago.
“She’s basically helpless,” Banks added.
Banks described White-Grangruth as a nice, sweet lady who joked around and talked a lot with the caretakers who helped her.
White-Grangruth was born in Newfoundland, Canada, where her father was stationed during his naval service, a 20-year-career that kept her parents and four sisters moving until they settled in Norfolk, according to her obituary in The Pilot.
She graduated at the top of her nursing school class in the Army before serving at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu.
“Kathy’s passion was always to help and give to others,” her family wrote in the obituary.
Her husband, known as Del, was mean, Banks said. Grangruth would curse and yell at the caretakers regularly, and many of them refused to work at the home, Banks said.
“He got mad at everything,” Banks said. “He’s a firecracker.”
Court records show Gangruth was charged with assaulting his wife five years ago and threatening to burn down their house if she called police. A judge later dismissed the case.
6200 blk of Wailes Ave. elderly woman found dead from a fire in the house. Under investigation by Fire Marshals and NPD pic.twitter.com/cVaDpLRkI2
— Norfolk Fire-Rescue (@norfolkfireresc) April 17, 2018
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