Edie Grunwald says she will bring victim’s perspective to Parole Board
She's the mother of the teenage victim at the center of one of Alaska's most high-profile murder cases, and now, Edie Grunwald is set to chair Alaska's powerful Parole Board.
"That day that it was announced, they gave me a call ahead of time and said, 'Oh, by the way, Dunleavy wants to appoint you as chair, are you OK with that?' and I was like, 'Heck yeah!'" she explained.
The Legislature still has to approve the five-year appointment and it doesn't officially start until March 1, but Edie took her oath of office in Palmer this week.
"It’s a pretty interesting twist, isn’t it?" she asked. "It was not on my radar at all and so I think it’s a fantastic fit, actually."
As the parents of 16-year-old murder victim David Grunwald, Edie and her husband Ben have faced some of their family's darkest times in the public eye. 2018 was a year packed with court hearings, weeks-long jury selections, and trials for the Grunwalds. The year produced guilty verdicts for two of the four teens charged with beating, kidnapping, and murdering David.
Edie is a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel with more than three decades of military experience and two masters degrees, but some have questioned her qualifications for the role and her ability to remain unbiased.
She says that won't be an issue.
"If anything, I’m probably objective to a fault," Edie said. "A lot of people say, 'How can she do this? She just lost her son.' It’s not easy. But I’m resilient. And I’ve had so many different things in my life that have happened that you have to bounce back and recover from, and I’m resilient."
Not only has she weathered the untimely death of her son and the media storm that followed, Edie said her father was also murdered.
When asked if she's become jaded, Edie responded, "I am not jaded whatsoever. If I was at one point, because of the outpouring of the community and people and families and getting pulled into this type of field, I’m not jaded at all. If anything, it has made me extremely more compassionate."
Only one person on the board is required to have a corrections or law enforcement background. As a member of the public, Edie believes she'll bring something invaluable to the table.
The victim’s point of view.
"I think from the victim's perspective, I hope to open it up where there's more information out there for people to say more," she said.
She'd like to see increased notifications to victims and the public about upcoming parole hearings.
"I just want to be able to help make great decisions and have good judgment and do a good job for the public," she said.
None of the defendants in David's case are expected to be up for parole during the next five years, but if the board were to examine a case Edie is connected to, she says she will recuse herself.
Edie ran in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor on a platform of repealing Senate Bill 91, Alaska's controversial crime reform package. She was defeated by former state Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, who went on to become Dunleavy's successful running mate.
SB 91 significantly expanded eligibility for discretionary parole. As a result, the board's discretionary parole hearings nearly tripled in 2017.
As it stands now, Edie's life is about to get a lot busier. She can often be found next to her husband Ben, stoically present at court hearings in David's case. With two of the four suspects untried, it's possible Ben will attend some hearings on his own when Edie has obligations to fulfill with the parole board.
"I have an amazing husband," she said, "and I am a full believer in split forces and conquer."
Edie said she's looking forward to a training in Baltimore at the end of March, which will include a tour of local prisons and a full day of training specifically for parole board chairs.
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