Almandinger found guilty on all charges in Grunwald murder trial

Erick Almandinger, right, enters a Palmer courtroom after a short recess in his trial Wednesday, May 30, 2018. (Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media photo)

A Palmer jury today found Erick Almandinger guilty on all counts in the 2016 slaying of 16-year-old David Grunwald.

Alaska Public Media’s Casey Grove was in the courtroom and joined host Lori Townsend by phone.

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TOWNSEND: Casey, give us a brief recap of the details in this murder trail that led up to today’s guilty verdicts.

GROVE: So, David Grunwald was 16 back in November of 2016 and he went missing. Nobody knew where he was for a couple weeks. They had previously found his burned-up Ford Bronco. And then, one of the four people that was charged in his murder ended up leading troopers to his body over in the Butte. And what came out through the investigation and what was presented in court was that a group of teenagers had beaten Grunwald and then driven him to this spot in the Butte and one of them — we still haven’t seen evidence of who actually saw him — but they allegedly worked together to kill him, left him there and didn’t tell anybody about it for a couple weeks. That all led up to this first trial for one of the alleged accomplices, Erick Almandinger, who, like you said, was found guilty on all counts; that includes murder, evidence tampering, arson, kidnapping and assault.

TOWNSEND: What was the scene in the courtroom like today?

GROVE: It was packed. There’s been a lot of attention on this case, and today what was a little different was we saw quite a few young people there that looked like friends and family of David Grunwald. There was also people watching a live feed from outside the courtroom because there were so many people there. A lot of the folks in the courtroom were hugging David Grunwald’s parents, including Edie Grunwald, his mom, after the verdict was delivered. And it was a big culmination, I would say, to a very high-profile murder case for Palmer, which is a pretty small community that doesn’t see these kind of things happen very often.

TOWNSEND: Did Erick Almandinger’s lawyer say anything after the verdicts were announced?

GROVE: No. His attorney, Jon Iannaccone, left pretty quickly afterward. Interestingly, the prosecutor, Roman Kalytiak, also did not comment. He said he din’t want to prejudice any potential jurors in the future. And that’s because there are three other people who potentially could still stand trial for this murder.

TOWNSEND: Casey, David Grunwald’s parents Edie and Ben have been in court every day of this trial. What was their reaction to the verdicts?

GROVE: Edie was pretty subdued. She said that this never should’ve happened. We were standing just outside the courtroom and she said that a couple times. “This never should’ve happened.” She did say that law enforcement should’ve gone after these guys earlier, maybe for other alleged criminal activity. she said that some of their small-time criminal activity had just escalated to this point — that nobody had nipped this in the bud, as she put it. I asked about the prospect of having to sit through two or even three more trials. She said it had been tough; admittedly, very hard to sit through two, two-and-a-half weeks of this trial. There may be more trials to come. And she expects that’ll still be tough. But she plans on being there. She said that they’re in it for the long haul, that they need to do their part to hold these guys accountable. She also thanked the community for their support.

EDIE GRUNWALD: I hope that the other three are shaking in their boots, because they should be. They should’ve never ever, ever did anything like this.

TOWNSEND: What about the other alleged accomplices?

GROVE: So that’s Dominic Johnson, Austin Barrett and Bradley Renfro. I believe Johnson is the next one scheduled for a trial; that would be in September, but those dates are often pretty fluid. Those things can changes. It’s hard to say who will be up next, or if there may be plea agreements in the future, now that these guilty verdicts have been entered. And it’s also still unclear if they’ll be tried separately.

a portrait of a man outside

Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him Read more about Caseyhere

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