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Real Estate Agent with Aero City Realty

A timeline to murder: Portage law enforcement unveils series of events that led to Portage Realtor's murder, Florida man's life sentence

Dave O'Brien October 24, 2010

 

 

By Dave O'Brien | Staff Writer

It was clear to Portage County sheriff's detectives early on the morning of Sept. 21 that they had a murder on their hands after deputies discovered the body of Portage County Realtor Andrew VonStein in the basement of a house on Woodway Drive in Twin Lakes. 

There was no weapon matching the gunshot wound to VonStein's chest at the crime scene, and the placement of the injury suggested another person shot the 51-year-old Ravenna Township man. 

All detectives had to go on in the initial hours of the investigation was a notepad left inside VonStein's SUV with "Robert. Woodway. Monday. 4:30" and a cell phone number. 

It turns out that was all they needed, sheriff's detective Lt. Greg Johnson said. 

"Based on that, we pieced everything together," he said Thursday at a press conference at the Portage County Prosecutor's Office in Ravenna.

What evolved was a profile of the 59-year-old Florida man who harbored resentment toward two Portage County men he blamed for losing the house he and his wife bought in 2003. 

Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said Robert W. Grigelaitis had a "deep-seated obsession" with VonStein, whom he blamed for brokering a 2003 land contract between Grigelaitis, Grigelaitis' wife and another man that went sour in 2006 after the owner failed to make mortgage payments. 

A timeline of events, provided by Johnson and augmented by other sources, shows Grigelaitis' apparent motive for murder: 

February 2003: Robert and Shirley Grigelaitis are living in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Shirley's terminally-ill son, Robert's stepson, is living in Portage County. Shirley moves to Ohio to take care of him, cashes in her retirement and begins looking for a house.

In one day, VonStein shows and sells a house on Doak Drive in Ravenna Township to the couple for $120,000. Shirley Grigelaitis made an $80,000 down payment on the property, with owner Richard Doak holding a land contract for the remaining $40,000. 

The land contract mentions a $40,000 existing mortgage on the property, but "there are no instructions in the land contract on how this loan is to be addressed," according to Johnson. 

The seller, Richard Doak, apparently does not tell the buyers there is a $90,000 mortgage on the property. 

Shirley Grigelaitis moves in three weeks later. Her son dies three months later. Robert Grigelaitis stays in Florida, and does not attend his stepson's funeral.

Fall 2006: Shirley Grigelaitis, who had been making monthly payments to Richard Doak, learns that the house is in foreclosure because Richard Doak has failed to pay the mortgage.

The couple sues, settling out of court when Richard Doak signs a $60,000 promissory note. When he files for bankruptcy several months later, the note becomes worthless.

Vigluicci said Robert Grigelaitis thereafter "blamed VonStein for the loss of the real estate when Richard Doak failed to make payments on the underlying mortgage on that property," developing "a scheme and a plan to take revenge on those people he thought wronged him - that being VonStein and Richard Doak."

2008: Shirley Grigelaitis loses the house to foreclosure and moves into a rental house with her daughter. Robert Grigelaitis tells a co-worker "he was going to either get even with the real estate agent" who wronged him in a deal in Ohio "or he was going to kill him," according to Johnson.

August 2009: Still married to Shirley but living in a Wilton Manors, Fla. house that is also in foreclosure, Robert Grigelaitis leaves a girlfriend and a job and moves in with Shirley and her daughter in Rootstown. 

June 2010: Robert Grigelaitis leaves the house because of "a family dispute" and moves into the Eastwood Motor Inn on S.R. 59 in Franklin Township.

Sept. 3: Grigelaitis phones VonStein under the pretense of viewing several houses, including 1686 Woodway Drive. VonStein shows him these houses the next day, apparently not recognizing Grigelaitis after seven years. 

Sept. 14: Grigelaitis calls VonStein, who is on vacation in Georgia, to schedule a second showing of the Woodway Drive house for Sept. 20. 

Sept. 15: Grigelaitis calls Richard Doak twice but fails to reach him.

Sept. 20: Grigelaitis' scheme "involved luring VonStein and Doak to a location where he could exact his revenge, and he attempted to do that on Sept. 20," according to Vigluicci. 

Grigelaitis goes to Richard Doak's house and tells Doak's in-laws he wants to hire Doak for some remodeling work on a house in Twin Lakes. Richard Doak's mother-in-law gives Grigelaitis her son-in-law's cell phone number, but accidentally transposes two numbers. 

Grigelaitis tries but fails to reach Richard Doak using the incorrect number. 

- 4 p.m.: Neighbors see Grigelaitis' truck parked behind VonStein's SUV at 1686 Woodway Drive. 

- 4:44 p.m.: VonStein uses his cell phone for the last time and tells another client he is showing a home to a customer. 

- Between 5 and 5:30 p.m.: A neighbor working in her yard hears "a single pop" from the direction of 1686 Woodway Drive. Johnson said investigators believe this is the gunshot that killed VonStein. 

- 6 p.m.: Robert Grigelaitis calls his wife from somewhere in East Akron. The call does not go through. He is back at the Eastwood Motor Inn by 10:30 p.m.

Sept. 21: At 1:30 a.m., a guest at the Eastwood hears Grigelaitis' truck start. It is never seen again at the motel.

- 3 a.m.: A concerned Laura VonStein calls Brimfield police to see if her husband is showing a house on Ranfield Road, but he is not located. She calls the Portage County Sheriff's Office, which uses GMC's OnStar system to locate VonStein's SUV in the area of Woodway Drive. 

The vehicle, with the key still in the ignition, is found at 1686 Woodway Drive. Deputies find VonStein dead in the basement. His wallet and cell phone are missing. They have not been found. 

VonStein's notepad is found. Phone records reveal a cell phone number on it is issued to Robert Grigelaitis. A nationwide "be-on-the-lookout," or BOLO, is sent to law enforcement asking them to arrest Grigelaitis. 

Sept. 24: Robert Grigelaitis sends an apparent good-bye letter, postmarked from Roanoke, Va. 

Sept. 27: Shirley Grigelaitis receives her husband's letter. She calls Lt. Johnson. A search of the Roanoke area fails to find Grigelaitis.

After leaving Roanoke, Grigelaitis uses VonStein's credit cards in Sparta, N.C., halfway between Roanoke and Greensboro, N.C. 

Sept. 28: Robert Grigelaitis calls his wife and tells her he is in North Carolina. He allegedly admits to killing VonStein and states he plans to commit suicide. Shirley Grigelaitis calls Lt. Johnson. 

Robert Grigelaitis checks his cell phone voicemail. The call - and "hours and hours and hours and hours" of work by the U.S. Marshal's Service - put Grigelaitis in Duplin County, N.C., on Interstate 40 halfway between Raleigh and Wilmington, said Deputy Marshal Jeff Irwin, coordinator of the U.S. Marshal's Service Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force

- 6:30 p.m.: North Carolina-based marshals find Grigelaitis at an I-40 rest stop near Turkey, in Sampson County, N.C. and begin surveillance. Inside a restroom, he is washing his hands when a deputy marshal aims a red laser pointer from his Taser weapon at him. Grigelaitis is arrested without incident. 

"It was really, really good work on their part," Irwin said. 

A .45-caliber Glock 21 semiautomatic handgun is found in Grigelaitis' back pocket. It was later determined to be the weapon that killed VonStein. 

Comments (10)

Patty Luther
RE/MAX Rock-n-Roll Realty - Lewiston, ID
Lewiston ID Real Estate, Idaho-Washington

~ wow that is crazy ~ so sad and senseless... scary

Oct 26, 2010 07:11 PM
Amy Alvarez
Truly Real Estate - Pleasanton, CA
East Bay Realtor

This is a  pretty scary story since the realtor had no idea this was 1) a past client 2) the client was mentally disturbed!You never know in this business what could happen and their really is no way he would of known. I feel bad for their families and the loss of the realtor. Sad story..

Oct 26, 2010 07:16 PM
Maureen Fukumoto
Help-U-Sell Realty Pro - Mililani, HI
Maureen

How sad. We spend so much time trying to make people happy.  It's frightening, I don't want to have to look at everyone suspiciously.

Oct 26, 2010 07:18 PM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

This is indeed very scary and should be concerning to all agents.

Oct 26, 2010 07:21 PM
Greg Freeman
Citiwide Real Estate Services - Allen, TX

Wow - that is scary

Oct 26, 2010 07:46 PM
Dan Edward Phillips
Dan Edward Phillips - Eureka, CA
Realtor and Broker/Owner

Good Morning Maria, thank you for posting the story, it is very sad and should serve as a warning.

Oct 26, 2010 09:09 PM
Lorraine Sayer
Monument, Black Forest, Falcon, Fountain homes - Colorado Springs, CO
Realtor ABR,CDPE,GRI - Colorado Springs,CO RE/MAX

Maria thanks for posting so we know the end of this sad story.  I don't see any way this Realtor could have seen this coming or done anything to protect himself.  I do see one ray of light from this.  Make sure we tell people where we are at all times and who we are meeting.  His family will have closure because he left a paper trail. 

Oct 26, 2010 10:34 PM
Trish Sarfert
Coldwell Banker Realty - Pensacola, FL
Serving military & civilian relocations!

Hard to believe how someone could think murdering a Realtor is going to solve anything.  Sue him for negligence if you want, but murder??? What is wrong with our society?

Oct 26, 2010 11:44 PM
Tim Bradford
Cleveland, OH
NMLS 250013

Thanks for the update on the story.    It is very sad that this occurred.  

Oct 27, 2010 12:45 AM
Phil Leng
Retired - Kirkland, WA
Phil Leng - Retired

What a happy ending!

Kill the realtor who did not write a very good contract.

Call your wife, who you are estranged with, and who lost the money in question, and tell her you killed the guy! (

Kill yourself -oops, the police found him first.

Oh well!!

Phil

Mar 10, 2011 08:49 PM