Brother: Woman accused in Target stabbing grew unstable after losing custody of child

By Thomas Watkins, AP
Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Woman in Target stabbing lost custody of child

LOS ANGELES — A woman accused of stabbing four people at a Target store had mental health issues that worsened after she lost custody of her child, a relative said Tuesday.

Layla Trawick was arrested by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy at the West Hollywood store on Monday. Authorities say she ran along aisles slashing customers at random, including stabbing in the neck a woman who was carrying a baby. All were expected to survive.

Trawick’s half brother, Tim Helton, said it was out of character for his sister to be violent. But she had long suffered from mental problems, exacerbated after she divorced about five years ago and lost custody of her son, he said.

“Being aggressive was not her, she was pretty damn docile,” Helton said. “She might not have all been there upstairs sometimes, but she was never aggressive.”

Helton, a Marine who returned from Afghanistan a week ago, said he last saw Trawick, 34, when he was stationed at Camp Pendleton about two years ago.

He took a flight to her mother’s house in Sacramento and tracked down Trawick, who was living out of a suitcase and “drifting from place to place” following the divorce.

“She seemed lost,” Trawick said. “Losing her kid took its toll on her. … The sun rose and set with the kid.”

Trawick, of Antioch, comes from a complicated family background. Her father had seven children with six different women, Helton said. After that encounter in Sacramento, he didn’t hear from his sister anymore because she had lost her cell phone.

She worked as a hairdresser and had an interest in acting, said another half brother, Joe Trawick.

“She was trying to get in a movie,” Joe Trawick said. “She was kind of spacey but I have never seen violence.”

A sister, who only provided her first name Stephanie, told the Los Angeles Times that the family had repeatedly sought psychiatric treatment for Layla Trawick and she had been hospitalized with mental health issues.

“They categorized her with different things,” the woman told the Times. “Her mood would change from day to day. One (day) she would be normal and the next day, she’s not.”

Public records show Trawick had been arrested several times previously. It was not immediately clear what were the nature of the arrests but in January the Santa Monica police arrested her for being drunk in public.

Investigators were still reviewing videotape of Monday’s attack and were expected to give their case to the district attorney’s office Wednesday. An arraignment had not been set and it was not known if Trawick had been assigned an attorney. She was being held on $1 million bail on suspicion of attempted murder.

Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said Trawick was being kept in solitary confinement at a downtown jail for her own protection and the protection of other inmates.

Trawick was arrested by Deputy Clay Grant Jr., who was off-duty and picking up paper towels and a couple of other household items. He said heard screaming and saw Trawick running with large kitchen knives in each hand.

Detectives were looking to see if Trawick had taken the knives from inside the store.

Grant was wearing a white T-shirt, camouflage shorts and running shoes so several shoppers mistook him for a gunman, adding to the sense of panic inside the store, officials said.

Associated Press researcher Barbara Sambriski contributed to this report.

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