Drunk man pours gasoline on helpless wheelchair-bound wife and sets her on fire after argument over money
58-year-old Delano Gangruth has been charged with second-degree murder of his wife 61-year-old Kathleen White-Gangruth after he confessed to burning her to death
A Virginia man who confessed to pouring gasoline on his disabled wife and setting her on fire may see his case taken to a grand jury after a judge who glanced through photos of the victim's charred remains ordered for it to be taken into consideration. 58-year-old Delano Gangruth is charged with second-degree murder in the death of his 61-year-old wife, Kathleen White-Gangruth, and faces a lengthy prison sentence if convicted.
According to The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk police Detective Bill Cogswell testified at Gangruth's hearing and said that the 58-year-old initially denied knowing about the April 17 fire that killed his wife. He later confessed to the crime after hours of questioning.
Gangruth told police that he and his wife had been fighting about money for three days resulting in him drinking for the first time in four years. Drunk on rum, he would then use the gasoline normally kept aside for the lawnmower to set White-Gangruth on fire. He said he then panicked and fled the scene.
It would be another 19 hours before the 61-year-old's body was discovered. Her caregiver would be the one to alert authorities after she knocked on the door, got no answer, and smelled something burning inside the residence.
In an affidavit, Detective Matthew Nordan described how firefighters who arrived at the home in the 6200 block of Wailes Avenue forced their way in and found the body of an elderly woman. She was allegedly found lying in a chair that was fully reclined and with a fist-sized candle/potpourri warmer under the chair.
Nordan also said that the high oxidation levels visible on the metal chair, as well as the amount of carpet that had been burned, indicated Gangruth had used an accelerant before setting his wife on fire. He added that the 61-year-old was confined to a wheelchair and was unable to move on her own.
Her caregiver corroborated those claims, explaining how Gangruth-White suffered from dementia and schizophrenia. She also said the victim had needed the wheelchair because of a hip surgery she had years ago, stating how she was "basically helpless."
In his autopsy report, medical examiner Michael Hays revealed that White-Gangruth had suffered third and fourth-degree burns on over 90% of her body. A dentist had to use dental records to identify the body and her death was subsequently attributed to "acute thermal injuries" in a homicide.
Authorities who canvassed the residence discovered a red gas can near a locked shed and suspected it had been used in the murder. However, an examination by a state forensic scientist did not result in enough DNA for a viable comparison to Gangruth's. The 58-year-old was known by officers in the area to have frequently traveled by bike and was eventually discovered and apprehended outside the McDonald's at Military Circle. Speaking to reporters at the time of his arrest, he claimed he was "not a monster."