Three separate trials for four Grunwald murder suspects
The four suspects in Palmer teenager David Grunwald’s murder will be separated into three different trials.
On January 17, Judge Gregory Heath signed off on a motion to sever suspect Dominic Johnson’s trial from co-defendants Austin Barrett and Bradley Renfro.
Johnson, Barrett, Renfro and Erick Almandinger are charged with kidnapping and killing Grunwald in November 2016.
Almandinger was already set to be tried on his own.
On Dec. 19, Johnson’s attorney, Lyle Stohler, filed a motion to separate his trial from Renfro and Barrett, who are still expected to go to trial together.
Court documents detail the crime, alleging it was Almandinger who pulled the trigger and the other three helped cover it up.
Renfro and Barrett told investigators Johnson pistol-whipped Grunwald before the four kidnapped the teen and drove him to the Knik River Bridge area, where Grunwald’s burned Ford Bronco was later found.
In the motion, Stohler said if state prosecutors want to use statements Renfro and Barrett made about Johnson as evidence, under the United States Constitution Johnson should have his own trial.
“If the statements were introduced at a joint trial, and a defendant who made the statement did not testify, the other defendants’ confrontation rights would be violated,” Stohler wrote.
While Johnson’s trial date is still scheduled for April 2, according to CourtView, Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak believes Almandinger’s trial will be the first to start on May 1. Transcripts from a Dec. 19 hearing show that neither Johnson’s attorney nor Barrett’s attorney expects to be ready before May.
On January 19, Devin Peterson pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution during the Grunwald investigation. He admitted to hiding murder weapons Almandinger told him to dispose of and giving gas cans to Almandinger and Johnson to burn Grunwald’s truck.
Peterson will likely spend six years in jail for those crimes plus another three years for a federal charge of giving drugs to a minor. His sentencing is set for April 30, one day before Almandinger’s trial begins.
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