"I have to explain to them why their 16-year-old son is never coming home again. Give me a reason why he needed to die that night."

An intense plea from Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Tony Wegrzyn as he questioned Erick Almandinger about his involvement in the murder of David Grunwald.

On Monday and Tuesday state prosecutors played hours of interviews between Sgt. Wegrzyn and Almandinger, including one on videotape from December 2, 2016, after investigators found Grunwald's body.

“They said you shot him,” Erick's father Rodney Almandinger shouted during a taped interview. “You pulled the trigger!”

Rodney had just learned Erick was a prime suspect in Grunwald's death.

Erick's grandmother, Myler Almandinger, was also in disbelief her grandson could be involved in the killing. 

"You needed to come home, get on your knees and say, "Grandma I f--ked up."

Almandinger’s attorney, Kenai-based public defender Jon Iannaccone, filed a motion to suppress statements from four interviews Almandinger had with Wegrzyn, including the one on December 2.

In his motion, Iannaccone said, “police lied to Erick’s family and used them as agents of the state to interrogate him.”

In the tape, Rodney and Myler seem upset and shout at Erick to stop lying to investigators.

“You killed him over weed?! Why the hell would you shoot someone over weed,” Rodney asked.

“Tell me the logic in that,” Erick countered.

The purpose of having family present for the interrogation, Iannaccone wrote, is to help the juvenile. He said in this case, police used Almandinger’s family to “break him.”

“They did this by lying to his family to make them think Erick could be treated with leniency if he spoke to the police and by exploiting the fact this was such a high-profile event in the community,” Iannaccone wrote.

According to Wegrzyn, an interview with Devin Peterson -- who was charged with evidence tampering in the case -- led to Erick Almandinger as a suspect.

The December 2, 2016 interview happened shortly after troopers found Grunwald’s body in the Knik River Road area. Erick, along with Bradley Renfro, Dominic Johnson and Austin Barrett, are all charged with his murder.

“Do you think Devin, Dominic, Bradley Renfro, that any of those guys are going to sit there and take the fall for you?” Wegrzyn asked him.

On tape, Erick Almandinger said Peterson was one of his best friends and wouldn’t believe Peterson or any of the other suspects would give him up.

"They would take the fall for me if I did this. They would. I know that on everything I’ve ever believed in,” he said.

In January, Peterson pleaded guilty to hiding the weapons used to kill Grunwald. His sentencing is scheduled for the day before Almandinger’s trial is expected to begin.

In the December 2 interview Almandinger told Sgt. Wegrzyn he, Renfro, Barrett and Johnson all burned Grunwald's Bronco together after they shot him in the woods. But Almandinger said it was Johnson who pulled the trigger.

"Dom was holding him by the shirt, made him walk the whole way. Turns him around, as soon as he looks up, bang! He just drops."

Iannaccone also issued a motion to suppress photographs of Grunwald’s body at the scene, as well as pictures investigators found on Almandinger’s social media accounts.

Pictures from his Snapchat show Almandinger dressed in blue, flashing the letter C, which is a gang sign for the Crips.

"I just interpreted them as kids who wanted to be part of or were embracing gang lifestyle, but it was hard for me to believe they were actually members of the Crip street gang,” said Wegrzyn.

Troopers obtained a search warrant for Almandinger’s tablet as well as his social media accounts like Facebook and Snapchat. They used information from the SIM card to trace Almandinger to the area where Grunwald’s Ford Bronco was found around the same time it was torched.

"Around the time we suspected the Bronco was being burned up we also found a selfie on that tablet that had the word in quotes, 'Killahs' -- K-I-L-L-A-H-S, I believe -- superimposed on Erick’s picture,” Wegrzyn said.

Almandinger’s evidentiary hearing continues Monday, February 12. Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said there’s no set timeline on when Judge Gregory Heath will issue his decision on what evidence can be used when Almandinger's trial begins May 1.

Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.


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