Almandinger's statements admissible in Grunwald murder trial
A judge has ruled statements murder suspect Erick Almandinger made to investigators can be used as evidence at his trial.
Almandinger is one of four people accused of murdering Palmer teenager David Grunwald in November 2016.
Almandinger’s attorney, Jon Iannaccone, did not want jurors to hear statements Almandinger made to Alaska State Troopers in four interviews during the investigation.
In his motion to suppress, Iannaccone argued Almandinger was not read his Miranda rights during the first three interviews Sgt. Tony Wegrzyn had with him at Almandinger’s home on November 16, November 18 and November 23, 2016, and therefore, the information was obtained illegally.
In his denial of the motion, Judge Gregory Heath wrote that Almandinger was not in custody during those interviews and had the opportunity to have parents present. The interviews also did not rise to the level of an interrogation.
“Erick Almandinger was free to break off police questioning and any reasonable person of similar age, education, background and intelligence would have felt at liberty to do so,” Heath wrote.
Iannaccone also said Almandinger’s family was used to “break his will” during a December 2 interrogation with Sgt. Wegrzyn.
“They said you shot him, you pulled the trigger!” Rodney Almandinger shouted during the first part of the interview.
“Just say what happened,” his grandmother Myler told him. “Swallow that kiss ass attitude you have and start caring for yourself.”
Sgt. Wegrzyn read Almandinger the juvenile Miranda warning before that interview and advised him of his right to stay silent. Almandinger and his family members continued to talk to Sgt. Wegrzyn after that warning.
Judge Heath wrote, in making his decision, he had to evaluate Almandinger’s “age, intelligence, length of questioning, prior experience with law enforcement officer, mental state at the time of the waiver and whether there had been any prior opportunity to consult with a parent, guardian or attorney.”
Almandinger’s mother, Chrystal Carlson, told Sgt. Wegrzyn her son had been “high as f—k” during the interview. Judge Heath noted during the interviews he saw no sign of impairment.
Judge Heath wrote, “Erick was thoughtful and cautious throughout the interview. Erick exercised independent judgment and his family did not coerce him into confessing.”
Judge Heath still has to rule on several motions regarding a change of venue, suppressing or limiting photos of the crime scene and suppressing physical evidence obtained from Almandinger’s tablet, specifically pictures of him flashing Crips gang signs.
Almandinger’s trial begins May 1. Suspect Dominic Johnson’s trial will start in late September. No date is officially set for suspects Bradly Renfro and Austin Barrett, but state prosecutors believe their trial won’t begin until 2019.
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.