Crime & Courts

Autopsy photos make for difficult day as Grunwald murder trial continues

David Grunwald's hands and arms bore dark red cuts and bruises he probably suffered trying to fend off a violent attack before he died.

Seven circular wounds marked the top of Grunwald's head, where authorities say he was beaten with a handgun before his death.

A fatal gunshot left two visible wounds, one in the hair above his right eye and one in the back of his head.

Autopsy photos of the 16-year-old's body dominated a difficult half-day Friday in the Palmer Superior Court murder trial of 18-year-old Erick Almandinger, the first of four teens charged in Grunwald's killing to go before a jury.

The state's chief medical examiner, Dr. Kenneth Gallagher, interpreted the photos during proceedings Friday morning.

Grunwald dropped off a friend at Almandinger's Palmer house earlier the evening of Nov. 13 and then came back to hang out and smoke marijuana, according to testimony in the trial that began May 14. He was pistol-whipped in a camper and then shot and killed at a remote spot near the Knik River before his 1995 Ford Bronco was torched.

Also charged in the murder are Dominic Johnson, Austin Barrett, and Bradley Renfro. Another defendant, Devin Peterson, is scheduled to be sentenced in August on charges he hid the weapons used and provided gas cans used to burn the Bronco.


[Only Grunwald defendant not charged with murder takes plea deal. His brother did the same in another killing.]

It was "very unlikely" Grunwald could have survived the gunshot wound, Gallagher testified Friday. It caused his death.

But without that wound, and with proper medical attention, the blunt-force injuries on his head shouldn't have been fatal, he said. "He should have been able to recover fully."

The medical examiner counted 14 apparently defensive injuries on Grunwald's hands and arms, he testified Friday. He had two more on his legs, maybe from trying to protect himself from being punched or kicked, or from something that happened before that night.

Toxicology results showed "a little bit of marijuana" in Grunwald's system when he died, Gallagher said.

Prosecutors say Almandinger provided the heavy Ruger .40-caliber used in the pistol-whipping and helped the others murder Grunwald, someone he'd known since ninth grade at Colony High School.

Almandinger's attorney says his client was too scared to stop the others and helped burn the Bronco but didn't commit murder.

Almandinger in December 2016 told investigators Grunwald came over to drink and smoke marijuana,  but the medical examiner didn't say anything about alcohol detected in the toxicology tests.

Grunwald's parents left the courtroom before the photos came up Friday.

Almandinger looked down as they flashed on a projection screen.

The trial continues Tuesday.

Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at