The “mastermind” who alongside three other teenage boys kidnapped and murdered his friend has been sentenced to 99 years in prison. Erick Almandinger, now 22, was convicted back in 2018 of killing David Grunwald, 16.
He was the only one of the killers who actually knew Grunwald, according to reports. Indeed, Almandinger who presented himself as remorseful on Monday, called Grunwald his friend, “a good kid.”
And yet it was Almandinger who prosecutors said supplied a .40-caliber gun used to pistol-whip Grunwald after the victim went to Almandinger’s home and smoked marijuana with his soon-to-be killers in a camper behind the residence.
The four defendants — including Dominic Johnson, now 22, Austin Barrett, now 25, and Bradley Renfro, 21 — initially trapped Grunwald in a bathroom during the Nov. 13, 2016 incident, authorities said.
“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,” the State of Alaska Department of Law said in a statement. “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.”
There was no apparent motive for the killing.
“There was something off in all four of these young people,” Palmer Superior Court Judge Gregory Heath reportedly said during sentencing, “I don’t know what motivated [Johnson] to do that but it was not normal. And it was flat-out scary.”
The judge continued that stance in Almandinger’s sentencing, calling the crimes truly horrific and committed for no apparent reason.
“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 Palmer District Attorney Melissa Howard. “The sentence imposed is reflective of the senseless brutality of the crime and the calculated steps the defendants took to cover it up.”
“I’m sure the words coming out of my mouth are irrelevant to them,” Almandinger reportedly said on Monday. “But if it means anything I am sorry. I’m sorry for what I did. I’m sorry for what I didn’t do.”
But David’s mother Edie Grunwald emphasized Almandinger’s personal responsibility in the case by calling him the “ringleader.”
“I don’t come here seeking justice today,” said David’s father Ben Grunwald in court. “I come here seeking punishment.”
Johnson was sentenced to 99 years behind bars for first-degree murder.
Barrett was sentenced to 45 years for second-degree murder.
Renfro is set to be sentenced at a hearing scheduled to begin Wednesday.
A fifth man, Devin Peterson, reportedly pleaded guilty to hiding the weapon and giving the four teens gas cans to burn Grunwald’s Bronco. He received a six-year sentence.