Willing killer or scared teen? Attorneys paint different pictures of Grunwald murder suspect Bradley Renfro
The trial for the third suspect in David Grunwald’s murder began in Fairbanks on Wednesday.
Bradley Renfro, now almost 19, is one of four people charged with killing the Palmer 16-year-old in November 2016.
Erick Almandinger was convicted of Grunwald’s murder in May 2018; Dominic Johnson was found guilty of the same crimes in December 2018.
The final defendant, Austin Barrett, is still awaiting trial.
No one has admitted to pulling the trigger and the state can’t prove who the shooter was.
Instead, the cases are being tried on “accomplice liability."
In his hour-and-a-half long opening statement, Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak told jurors Renfro was part of a group that idolized gang culture.
Kalytiak said Renfro was not only present for Grunwald’s beating and killing but was also a voluntary participant.
“Our evidence will prove to you this was an intentional, planned and unanimous decision and a group effort by Johnson, Almandinger, Austin Barrett and this defendant Bradley Renfro,” Kalytiak said.
He showed portions of transcribed interviews in which Renfro initially told investigators he didn’t know Grunwald and was too drunk to remember much of what had happened the night of the killing.
Renfro told state troopers he wasn’t intimidated by his friends. Kalytiak read jurors part of the statements that said “I could beat those kids up if I wanted to. I took four years of Taekwondo,” and “I’m not f------ scared.”
Kalytiak said the fact Renfro kept hanging out with the group after Grunwald’s murder proves those statements.
“This group was very comfortable with their decisions and their actions on Nov. 13. They continued on with their normal day-to-day routines. They continued to party; they continued to hang out together. They were extremely comfortable and they were extremely confident the troopers wouldn’t bust them,” Kalytiak said.
Renfro’s defense attorney Chris Provost painted a different picture of a teen who was impaired by drugs and alcohol and worried that what happened to Grunwald might happen to him too if he didn’t go along.
“His actions, these bad acts, these bad facts, were based on an adolescent, 16 years old, who just went through this. It’s self preservation. He did not want them to think he wasn’t on board, that he was going to snitch on them because he would be disappeared as well,” Provost told jurors.
He hinted at what part of his defense might entail, telling jurors that at 16 years of age, Renfro was not a “reasonable adult." Provost told the jury Renfro "asked for his mommy" before being interviewed by troopers.
Provost also said Renfro wasn’t as tight-knit with the group as the district attorney suggested.
“I don’t think Bradley Renfro can explain a motive to you either. He had never met David Grunwald before he stepped into that trailer. In fact, he was the last one to have, fairly recently, ended up associating with this group,” Provost said.
In a statement Renfro made to troopers after Almandinger's arrest, he said it was Barrett who shot Grunwald, then said it was Almandinger who did it.
Provost said after he had been Renfro's attorney for a few months Renfro revealed Barrett as Grunwald's killer.
"Nobody pointed a finger at Bradley Renfro as the shooter or as participating in the beating," Provost said.
The state’s first witnesses to be called Thursday will likely include Grunwald’s girlfriend and several of the investigators who were involved in the case early on.
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