Jury finds Dominic Johnson guilty of murdering David Grunwald
Dominic Johnson has been found guilty of murdering David Grunwald, becoming the second of four suspects in the Palmer teen's 2016 death to be convicted.
The jury returned a verdict Thursday afternoon after about six hours of deliberation.
Johnson was charged with nine crimes for killing 16-year-old Grunwald on Nov. 13, 2016: first-degree murder, three counts of second-degree murder, first-degree assault, kidnapping, vehicle theft, tampering with evidence, and arson.
He was found guilty on all nine counts.
State prosecutors said Johnson, Erick Almandinger, Bradley Renfro and Austin Barrett worked together to beat Grunwald, then murdered him to cover up the assault.
A jury convicted Almandinger of all nine charges earlier this year; Barrett and Renfro are expected to go to trial together in late 2019.
During closing arguments, defense attorney Lyle Stohler said his client was guilty of the crimes he committed before and after Grunwald was shot and killed in the woods off Knik River Road, but said Johnson didn't take part in the actual murder.
"We're not saying he wasn't involved in kidnapping him and putting him in that Bronco," Stohler told the jury. "But what this physical evidence tells you is Dominic Johnson wasn't present when David Grunwald was killed."
State prosecutors can't prove who pulled the trigger, but said each suspect is guilty through accomplice liability. In an interview with troopers before his arrest, Almandinger pointed the finger at Barrett then Johnson, saying they were the ones who shot Grunwald.
"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," Almandinger told investigators.
Stohler also asked the jury to convict Johnson of second-degree assault, a lesser charge, for pistol whipping Grunwald before he was killed. He argued Grunwald's injuries — seven head wounds as well as defensive marks on his hands and arms — weren't serious enough to warrant the first-degree charge.
He quoted the medical examiner's words, "'Without injury of the gunshot wound, with a degree of medical certainty, he meaning David Grunwald, should have been able to recover fully.' That's what the doctor said. That's not a serious injury."
Johnson will be back in court on March 14 when the judge will discuss a possible sentencing date.
March looks to be a busy month for state prosecutors. Renfro and Barrett have an evidentiary hearing at the beginning of the month; Almandinger is scheduled to be sentenced for his crimes on March 20 and 21.
A conviction of first-degree murder carries a sentence of up to 99 years.
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