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Phoenix care facility owner arrested on murder charges following resident death

Valer Catuna
Posted at 9:56 PM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-25 21:09:25-05

PHOENIX, AZ — Police say the owner of a Phoenix adult care facility was arrested on Wednesday in connection to the death of a man at his facility.

On Oct. 21, court documents allege that 52-year-old Valer Catuna committed an assault inside the Artemis Adult Care Home, located near 35th and Grovers avenues, which resulted in the death of 53-year-old resident William Griswold.

Catuna is the owner and care provider at the home where Griswold lived.

Griswold was designated as seriously mentally ill and had been under medical care after suffering a traumatic brain injury from a previous vehicle crash and had a series of health issues that hampered his ability to communicate.

Griswold was completely dependent on Catuna and other employees for his day-to-day needs and care.

On the morning of the incident, another resident of the home witnessed Catuna get angry and push Griswold onto his bed, and repeatedly strike him with a closed fist, according to court documents.

The witness reported Catuna only stopped when a vendor arrived at the front door to the care facility.

The witness then texted a relative and later told police they waited to come forward with the information because they were afraid, as they are also a resident of the facility.

Griswold was on his bed the rest of the day, according to the witness, and was cold to the touch, despite Griswold saying he was hot.

Another worker, who did not witness the assault, described Griswold as being in bed before lunch that day, not eating, refusing dinner, and complaining of pain all over his body prior to his death.

Griswold died sometime between 7 and 8 p.m. that evening, according to documents.

Catuna’s spouse called 911 and reported Griswold had died of apparent natural causes.

During an initial interview with police, neither Catuna nor his spouse reported the earlier assault.

After receiving the witness reports of seeing Catuna hit Griswold, police relayed the information to officials with the medical examiner’s office, who then said an assessment indicated injuries found on the body of the victim were consistent with the witness's statement.

Catuna was taken into custody and admitted to having a physical altercation with Griswold but said he only pushed him onto his bed, possibly hitting him one to three times, but could not remember for sure.

On Dec. 30, 2020, the medical examiner’s office approved the final medical examiner’s report and listed the cause of death as blunt force trauma injuries and the manner of death as homicide.

The report listed evidence of multiple injuries to the chest, spleen, several broken ribs, as well as internal bleeding.

In an announcement Wednesday, authorities arrested Catuna and he was charged with second-degree murder.