Five years after a butchered woman wrote his initials in blood, a killer is sentenced


Of all the lies that James Grzeslo spread about himself — from claiming that he was a decorated Marine who served in Vietnam to telling people he was a cardiothoracic surgeon even though he was really a nurse — one claim in particular stood out for sheer gruesomeness, prosecutors say.

“He was supposed to turn people into Pez dispensers by sneaking up behind them and slicing their throat,” said Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Oksana Sigal.

Though Grzeslo, 59, did serve in the military, Sigal said he entered the service after the Vietnam War and there was no evidence he had ever killed anyone.


No evidence, that is, until Oct. 26, 2011. That’s when Sigal says Grzeslo acted upon his throat-cutting “fantasy” and nearly decapitated his girlfriend, 58-year-old Cathy Ann Carrasco-Zanini, in her Beverly Hills apartment. He was convicted of the killing last month and sentenced Monday to 26 years to life in prison.

According to prosecutors, Zanini had few defensive wounds, suggesting that Grzeslo approached her from behind and attacked.

Court testimony revealed the couple had no history of domestic violence, but Grzeslo kept a journal where he vented about his paranoid jealousies, Sigal said.

“He wrote a lot about obsessing about her relationships with other people …even with relatives,” she said.

If Grzeslo saw his girlfriend talking with a man, he would think the man was flirting with her or vice versa, Sigal said. Grzeslo enrolled in anger management classes to help the relationship.

But on that October morning, it all fell apart. Authorities aren’t sure exactly what transpired, but Sigal speculated that Grzeslo had gone to her apartment that morning to confront her about another one of her friendships.


“The victim was a pretty assertive woman, and he couldn’t control her, and she most likely stood her ground,” Sigal said.

After cutting her throat, Grzeslo fled, authorities said. Carrasco-Zanini managed to write two letters on her apartment wall in blood: “JG,” Grzeslo’s initials.

“I think it aligned with his fantasy of how he killed people. The way he murdered her was almost like cutting her head off,” Sigal said.

After the slaying, Grzeslo called his son, his brother and then his anger management counselor and said “he thinks he killed his girlfriend,” Sigal said.

Grzeslo was arrested at his anger counselor’s office after confessing to the slaying a second time to police.


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