MAGNA — Police believe a man who fatally stabbed himself after being cornered by officers was responsible for the stabbing death of a neighbor hours earlier.
Unified Police Lt. Lex Bell said Wednesday that detectives had "forensically linked" the cases.
The wild series of events began about 8 p.m. Tuesday when a woman called 911 to say a 35-year-old friend of her husband's, Jared Ryan Groves, was trying to stab him, Bell said. When officers found the man near 3739 S. Armoridge Drive (8105 West), he was still armed with a knife and ran into the backyard.
Officers cornered Groves in the backyard and used a Taser on him, but it had no effect. The man then stabbed himself in the throat with the knife, hitting a main artery, and continued to hold the weapon and threaten officers with it until a second Taser was deployed, Bell said.
Groves died at the scene from his injuries.
While that case was being investigated, Unified police officers responded to a report of the death of a 38-year-old man found at the bottom of the stairs inside his house at 2651 S. Twain Drive (8080 West) about 10 p.m. The man's sister and her children had returned home to find David Perea's body, Bell said.
At first, they thought Perea had fallen down the stairs. But based on the amount of trauma the man suffered, detectives determined more was involved.
As West Valley police helped investigate the confrontation and death of Groves, they learned he was Perea's next-door neighbor and someone other neighbors had expressed concerns about in the past.
Over the past three weeks, multiple neighbors told detectives that Groves had been acting very strangely, saying things like, "I won't be around very long anyway," or mumbling things that didn't make sense, Bell said.
Friends and family members said Groves had a drinking problem and lost his job three weeks ago, Bell said. He had been on a "downward spiral" and was frequently intoxicated, they said. They also believe he hadn't slept in three weeks, Bell said.
Groves' longtime friend, James Straten, confirmed Wednesday that his friend had been going through hard times.
"This wasn't him. He was a great guy. He was a great, great guy," Straten said. "He was just going through some hard times. He wasn't sleeping. … (He was) drinking a lot.
"Everybody loved him. Everybody did. He put smiles on everybody's face. But he was just hiding his inner person, and we didn't know the devil was inside of him. And he wasn't talking about that," he said.
After working through the night piecing together what happened, Bell said investigators believe Groves went to Perea's house, where there was some sort of confrontation. There were no signs of forced entry, he said.
Police didn't know Wednesday whether the two got into an argument outside or if Perea invited Groves into the house. The two men did not have any prior history of conflict, Bell said.
Perea was stabbed multiple times, he said. Bloody shoe prints with unique treads were found inside Perea's house, Bell said, and they matched the shoes Groves was wearing when he fatally stabbed himself.
After killing Perea, Groves texted Straten.
"(He) texted me and said he wanted to say his last goodbye, and he's been talking about suicide all day. And I was trying to calm him down throughout the day," he said.
Straten said he was having a small barbecue with family members at the time and told Groves not to come over.
"Next thing I know, I hear a car door shut. I look up my driveway and he was walking up with a knife," he said.
Groves stabbed his friend in the shoulder and chased him around his yard while Straten's wife called 911, Bell said.
Investigators also found blood inside and outside Groves' car that they believe links him to Perea's death.
Perea lived by himself and did not have a wife or children, Bell said. Court records show he had a minor criminal history in Utah.
Straten said he wants Perea's family to know he's "deeply" apologetic about what happened. But he said there seemed to be no consoling his friend the past couple of days, and he finally "snapped."
"I hope that everybody just knows he was troubled these last few weeks. But he was an awesome, awesome man before that," Straten said. "He was just out of it."
Contributing: Mike Anderson