Grunwald's girlfriend recounts frantic search after disappearance
State prosecutors called their first witnesses in the trial for murder suspect Bradley Renfro. He’s charged with beating and killing 16-year-old David Grunwald in Palmer in 2016.
Thursday’s witnesses included a cab driver who picked up Renfro and the other suspects, Erick Almandinger and Dominic Johnson, from the site where troopers found Grunwald’s burned Bronco.
An Alaska State Trooper and a deputy fire marshal talked about evidence they collected from the torched truck and showed jurors photos of the crime scene.
The most emotional testimony came from Grunwald’s girlfriend, Victoria, as she recounted the night he disappeared.
She told the Palmer District Attorney she didn’t know Erick Almandinger well; they’d only met a few times at school.
Victoria knew Grunwald might have gone to the Almandinger house on Nov. 13, 2016. When he didn’t make it home by curfew, she started messaging Almandinger for information.
At 9:55 p.m. she sent a message: "Please answer as soon as you can is David still with you?"
She got no response but continued to text.
"Please answer me dude."
At 11:33 p.m. Almandinger simply responded, "Hey?"
Victoria sent three more messages:
"OH MY GOD WHERE IS DAVID"
"Is he with you?"
"Is he okay?"
Almandinger responded, "Your david? No I didn't even see him today. Is he okay?"
Victoria read several more pages of their conversation before breaking down.
The last message she sent was on Nov. 16, at 4:01 a.m., two days after troopers found Grunwald's burned Bronco.
“I said, ‘Hey man if you have any details on the night David went missing, please, please tell the cops. I haven’t slept in days. I’ve had to take sleeping pills every night but obviously they don’t work too well,” she read. “I’m completely heartbroken and lost. I just want to know my baby is safe.”
Renfro admitted to being with Almandinger the night Grunwald was killed. His attorney, Chris Provost, denies Renfro was a willing participant in the crime.
David Grunwald’s mother, Edie Grunwald, testified she’d never heard him mention Renfro’s name. She told jurors what she remembered about the time after her son went missing.
“Every day we were out looking. We hired a private investigator to help us look for our son. We kept in contact with the troopers,” Edie said.
The family tried to remain optimistic during the search.
“We were hopeful, hopefully he would be okay, that’s kind of what you do. Even though more time was going by. It was 19 days before they found him,” Edie said.
The state’s next witnesses include state troopers who investigated the pistol-whipping crime scene in Almandinger’s trailer and an analyst from the State Crime Lab who looked at blood evidence found in the trailer.
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