Classmate stands trial in death of teen shot execution-style in woods

David Grunwald

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- One of four young men charged with murder in the 2016 death of their classmate has gone to trial. The trial for 18-year-old Erick Almandinger began Monday, KTUU-TV reported .

Almandinger told Alaska State Troopers in an account outlined in court documents that Grunwald was pistol-whipped by an acquaintance in his camper, driven to a remote location, walked 200 feet into the woods and fatally shot once in the head. Almandinger, however, denied pulling the trigger and said another teen shot Grunwald, who had begged for his life, reported CBS affiliate KTVA. 

Prosecutors in court said that Almandinger played a critical role in the murder of David Grunwald, regardless of who pulled the trigger. Almandinger and three others face the more serious charge of murder, while a fifth man faces charges of tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution.

Grunwald was reported missing by his parents on Nov. 13, 2016. His Ford Bronco was found burned near a trail the next day.

His body was found Dec. 2, 2016, near Palmer.

Almandinger acknowledged burning the Bronco miles away, catching a cab ride home, cleaning the trailer and burning a rug from the trailer that was covered in blood, the court documents said.

The only motive Almandinger offered to an investigator was that Grunwald "had smoked all of his weed," the documents said.

Almandinger's defense argued that Almandinger's only crimes were committed after the murder, that the murder weapon was not his and that he was too scared to stop Grunwald's murder from happening.

Almandinger is charged with first-degree and second-degree murder, kidnapping and tampering with evidence. Dominic Johnson and Bradley Perrigin-Renfro, both also 16 at the time of Grunwald's death, face the same charges.

Austin Barrett, who was 19 at the time, is charged with first-degree and second-degree murder and kidnapping.

Devin Peterson, who was 18 at the time, is charged with tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution.