Trial begins for second Grunwald murder suspect
Two years after David Grunwald was shot and killed, the second suspect in his murder goes to trial.
It took nearly a month to find a jury for 18-year-old Dominic Johnson.
He's one of four people accused of beating and shooting 16-year-old Grunwald on November 13, 2016.
A jury convicted co-defendant Erick Almandinger on nine charges, including first-degree murder, earlier this year.
While Johnson is standing trial alone, Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said Johnson was very much part of a group effort to kill Grunwald and cover up the crime.
"We will prove that Dominic Johnson and his buddies as a close-knit group of wannabe gang-bangers..." Kalytiak began.
"Objection," said Johnson's defense attorney Lyle Stohler.
"Objection noted; overruled," said Judge Gregory Heath.
"...as a group of wannabe gang-bangers destroyed David Grunwald's life," Kalytiak said.
In his opening statements, Kalytiak outlined Grunwald's disappearance and the people involved: Dominic Johnson, Erick Almandinger, Bradley Renfro and Austin Barrett. All are charged with first-degree murder.
Kalytiak showed jurors crime scene pictures from where Grunwald's body was found off Knik River Road and autopsy photos that show the extent of Grunwald's injuries from being pistol whipped.
The state's theory is the group killed Grunwald to cover up the beating.
"Likely, when he's pleading for his life, one of them took the Springfield 9mm, pointed it at David Grunwald's head and put a 9mm bullet in his head, thereby causing David's death," Kalytiak said.
Stholer gave a brief opening statement—a little more than one minute—and asked jurors to consider the facts.
"This is an emotional case, you're going to hear emotional testimony. You're going to see photographs, you're going to have an emotional response to. But you still need to listen closely to all the evidence in this case. And still, listen to both sides," Stohler said.
Grunwald's girlfriend was the first witness called to the stand. She described her last day with David, going to church before heading to a consignment sale. Grunwald dropped her off at her father's house before heading to Almandinger's house the night of Nov. 13.
Kalytiak asked her to read her text exchange with Almandinger after Grunwald didn't come home.
"I'm completely heartbroken and lost. I just want to know my baby is safe," Victoria had texted Almandinger on Facebook Messenger a few days later.
David's mother, Edie Grunwald, is expected to be the first witness called to testify on Tuesday.
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