Erick Almandinger guilty of murdering David Grunwald
Erick Almandinger has been found guilty on all counts of murdering Palmer teenager David Grunwald.
A jury convicted Almandinger on all nine of his charges Thursday, less than 24 hours after closing arguments.
Almandinger faced charges of first-degree murder, three charges of second-degree murder, felony murder, kidnapping, assault, vehicle theft and arson.
Immediately after the verdict was read, one count at a time, Judge Gregory Heath polled each of the 12 jurors to confirm that their verdict was unanimous.
Asked by Heath to present sentencing aggravators which might increase Almandinger’s prison time, Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said the state is hoping to have his conduct in the murder and kidnapping counts declared to show “deliberate cruelty to another person.” In addition, the state wants his actions during those crimes and the evidence-tampering count declared “among the most serious in the definition of those offenses.”
Almandinger was asked by the judge if he was willing to waive his right to have the jury determine whether those aggravators apply to him, instead leaving those decisions to Heath. He agreed that he was, and Kalytiak posed no opposition on the prosecution’s behalf.
Investigators said Almandinger was one of four people who murdered 16-year-old David Grunwald on Nov. 13, 2016, then tried to cover up the crime. Suspects Dominic Johnson, Bradley Renfro and Austin Barrett are awaiting trial.
Grunwald’s mother, Edie Grunwald, said Thursday afternoon that she and her husband were “here for the long haul” as the defendants’ cases move through Alaska courts.
“They made a bad decision, my son is gone and now they have to live with those decisions,” Grunwald said.
Although she emphasized the need for due process in the pending trials, she was still gathering words to convey what she felt following Thursday’s verdict against Almandinger.
“Justice, punishment, I don’t know what words to put there but I hope the other three are shaking in their boots because they should be,” Grunwald said. “They should have never done anything like this.”
Grunwald’s parents took the stand for the prosecution, describing the agonizing search before father Ben Grunwald said Alaska State Troopers “told us that David had been kidnapped and murdered and tortured.” Kalytiak said at trial that it’s not possible to prove Almandinger was the person who fatally shot Grunwald, during an encounter in which autopsy photos show he was also pistol-whipped and suffered defensive wounds.
Almandinger didn’t look at those photos when they were presented last week but shed tears Wednesday as the case was handed to a jury of his peers. His defense, presented by attorney Jon Iannaccone, has said he went along with the killing because he was scared and that “he wasn’t in a position to stop it” by the time Grunwald was attacked and his Ford Bronco was burned.
A pre-sentencing conference date was tentatively set Thursday in the Almandinger case for Sept. 6.
Johnson’s trial is expected to begin Sept. 24.
Barrett and Renfro as still scheduled to be tried together but Kalytiak says that likely won’t be until early 2019.
Contact reporter Heather Hintze by email.
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