Three trials likely for four Grunwald murder suspects
The four suspects in Palmer teenager David Grunwald’s murder last year may be separated into three different trials.
Erick Almandinger, Bradley Renfro, Dominic Johnson and Austin Barrett are charged with kidnapping and killing Grunwald in November 2016.
Almandinger is 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 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, 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.
The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees that "in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted with the witnesses against him."
Judge Gregory Heath has yet to sign off on the request.
Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said there are mountains of paperwork and scheduling logistics to get four cases ready for three different trials.
“We’re dealing with four different attorneys and they have other cases,” Kalytiak explained. “The judges on those cases may be pushing those cases because those cases are older than this one. It gets really complicated as far as getting a solid trial date.”
Kalytiak expects Almandinger’s trial to start in May.
Court records show the trials for Johnson, Renfro, and Barrett are scheduled for April 2, 2018. Transcripts from a Dec. 19 hearing show that neither Johnson’s attorney nor Barrett’s attorney expect to be ready before May.
Kalytiak said there’s one more complication with getting the cases prosecuted: Heath is expected to retire at the end of 2018. If the cases aren’t tried before the end of that year another judge could be assigned and might further delay prosecution.
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