(Palmer, AK)—Palmer resident Erick Almandinger was sentenced Monday to serve 99 years for the kidnapping and murder of his schoolmate, 16-year-old David Grunwald.
In May 2018, Almandinger was convicted by a Palmer jury of nine charges, including murder, kidnapping, and arson. Almandinger was 16 at the time of the crimes.
Almandinger supplied the pistol used by the teens to beat Grunwald. On Nov. 13, 2016, Grunwald was pistol whipped in a camper behind Almandinger’s home. After the beating, Grunwald was driven for nearly half an hour in his own vehicle, walked into the woods near the Knik River, and executed. Grunwald’s vehicle was discovered burned, miles away near the Talkeetna Mountains. Grunwald’s body was found nineteen days later after defendant Dominic Johnson led law enforcement to the area.
During sentencing, retired Palmer Superior Court Judge Gregory Heath found Almandinger’s crimes were truly horrific and committed for no apparent reason. Judge Heath found that Grunwald was driven for nearly half an hour and emotionally tortured. Judge Heath said the crimes warranted a severe sentence reflecting general deterrence, reaffirmation of societal norms, and community condemnation. Almandinger was sentenced to:
- 99 years with 20 suspended for 79 years to serve for murder in the first degree
- Five years for assault in the first degree
- Thirty years, with twenty suspended, for kidnapping (10 years to serve consecutively)
- A $2,500 fine for arson
- Five years for tampering with physical evidence
- A $2,500 fine for vehicle theft in the first degree
The total composite sentence for Almandinger is 99 years to serve.
Palmer District Attorney Melissa Howard began prosecuting the case six years ago with now retired District Attorney Roman Kalytiak. Howard argued for the maximum sentence to be imposed for each crime for a total of 209 years to serve.
“David Grunwald was a 16-year-old boy who was deeply loved by his family and friends, whose lives have been shattered by their loss and the haunting thoughts of what David endured the last hours of his life,” said Howard. “The sentence imposed is reflective of the senseless brutality of the crime and the calculated steps the defendants took to cover it up.”
Howard paraphrased a victim impact statement given to the court by Grunwald’s aunt Cheri Ruiz: the kidnapping, pistol whipping, and murder of David are separately heinous, but together were unbelievable.
Almandinger is the third defendant to be sentenced of the four teenagers who were charged with the November 2016 murder. Dominic Johnson received a sentence of 99 years to serve for first-degree murder, and Austin Barrett received a sentence of 45 years for second-degree murder. Bradley Renfro will be sentenced this week, beginning Wednesday.
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