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David Grunwald’s father is suing 2 teens he says swapped his son’s murder weapon for drugs. He’s suing their parents, too.

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: January 18, 2018
  • Published January 18, 2018

Ben and Edie Grunwald attended a pre-trial conference in Palmer on Oct. 4, 2017. (Bill Roth / ADN file photo)

PALMER — The gun used to kill David Grunwald was illegally traded for drugs, according to a civil lawsuit filed this week by the slain teen's father.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed Wednesday by Benjamin Grunwald in Palmer Superior Court lists as defendants two young men — apparently teens at the time — who, the suit claims, gave the gun to the four teens charged in his son's November 2016 murder.

The gun belonged to an adult one of the teens was living with, the document says.

The suit also targets their adult guardians and parents for failing to secure the weapon or recognize the boys' "disregard for authority and societal norms."

Grunwald is seeking more than $1 million in damages plus attorney fees. His Wasilla attorney, M.R. Spikes, did not return calls for comment. Anchorage attorney Rod Sisson is representing at least some of the defendants and declined to comment.

David Grunwald, a 16-year-old with a clean-cut reputation and military family, was bludgeoned by a pistol and later shot, his body dumped in a remote spot along the Knik River. One of the teens later charged in his killing told Alaska State Troopers that Grunwald came to his house to drink and smoke marijuana before the murder.

Authorities charged four teenagers in Grunwald's death. They are scheduled for at least two separate trials later this year. A fifth was charged with helping conceal evidence and is scheduled for a change of plea hearing Friday.

Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said in an email that investigators involved in the case couldn't comment on the details of the lawsuit because of the pending criminal trials.

Anchorage Daily News is not identifying the defendants because they have not been charged with any crimes.

The suit lists the two younger defendants but also the mother of one and her boyfriend, who owned the gun used to kill Grunwald, the lawsuit contends.

The man failed to secure his pistol in the home, the suit charges. Both adults, it claims, should have known that the teens "had consistently demonstrated a reckless disregard for rules and authority."

The other teen's mother is also listed as a defendant, as are five anonymous John Does.

The teens "had been confronted multiple times for failure to follow rules, failure to obey laws and failure to obey authority figures," the lawsuit states. The three adults "were aware" of their "disregard for authority and societal norms."

The suit provides no details as to whether either teen had previous instances of gun issues, violence or criminal offenses.

Lawsuits like Grunwald's wrongful death filing hinge on the concept of "negligence in supervision," according to Charlie Coe, a longtime Anchorage personal-injury attorney not involved in the case.

"What we're saying is either they knew or they should have known," said Coe, who recently wrapped up a case with similar elements but involving arson.

Often, homeowners' insurance covers damages in cases of negligence, he said.

A well-known state Supreme Court decision in 1999 centered on a negligent supervision claim.

The family of a 24-year-old Anchorage man shot and killed in 1993 by an emotionally disturbed 17-year-old with a violent past sued the younger man's parents. But the state's highest court found the teen's parents took reasonable efforts to control him and couldn't know he was going to shoot someone that day.

At one point, the ruling describes the relative difficulty of "keeping a seventeen-year-old from secretly carrying and using a stolen gun."