AP NEWS

Suspect in 2016 killing of Palmer teen enters guilty plea

February 6, 2020 GMT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A fourth suspect in the killing of a Palmer teenager has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Austin Barrett, 22, changed his plea Wednesday and was convicted in the death of David Grunwald, Anchorage television station KTUU reported.

Grunwald in November 2016 was severely beaten with a pistol, driven to a remote location near the Knik River and shot in the head, according to investigators.

Three others, Erick Almandinger, Dominic Johnson and Bradley Renfro, were convicted by juries of first-degree murder.

Barrett is scheduled to be sentenced in October. Under the terms of the plea deal, he faces up to 45 years in prison and 10 years of probation.

Barrett’s initial indictment on a first-degree murder charge was thrown out in January. A Palmer judge said police and prosecutors violated Barrett’s rights by continuing to question him even after he had asserted his constitutional rights against self-incrimination. Prosecutors were given until the end of February to decide whether to re-indict Barrett.

Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said the ruling complicated the decision about whether to go to trial.

“Obviously that’s a problem for the prosecution when the main piece of evidence is suppressed. That causes people to recalculate,” Kalytiak said.

Barrett also had offered testimony to help convict the others, Kalytiak said.

Grunwald’s parents were surrounded by supporters at the plea hearing. Edie Grunwald and others wore T-shirts that said, “Justice for David.”

“One of the good things about a plea bargain is that there’s no appeals to have to deal with,” she said. “He can press forward with his sentence and his life and getting ready for his next phase of life, and we can put that part behind us.”

She said Barrett’s decision not to go to trial was significant.

“The fact that he would come forward and go ahead and plead guilty and waive a lot of those rights, accept responsibility, and be held accountable, you know, says a lot,” she said.