Friends and family yearn for clues in search for Mat-Su teen

WASILLA — Five days after dropping off his girlfriend in Butte, Palmer teen David Grunwald remains missing.

The increasingly baffling disappearance has galvanized a volunteer search effort.

Alaska State Troopers said on Tuesday they had found Grunwald's Ford Bronco torched and ditched up a rough trail on Bald Mountain Ridge, a popular four-wheeling area locally known as Baldy, in the Talkeetna Mountains north of Wasilla.

But no other indications popped up after that, leaving his friends and family desperate for information.

Some of Grunwald's friends and others reportedly planned to search the trail up Baldy Friday afternoon. A larger search was planned to begin Saturday morning.

Alaska State Troopers already searched the area around the burned vehicle, spokeswoman Megan Peters said. Troopers were notified that the group was going out Friday and there may be searches over the weekend, but aren't participating in those efforts.

Instead, troopers are seeking anyone who might have seen the Bronco being driven around after around 7 p.m. Sunday, she said.


"Right now, what we're trying to do is ask if anyone has seen the vehicle, or Grunwald, to see if we can establish any sort of timeline between when he was last seen dropping off his girlfriend and the time when his vehicle was burned out."

He dropped off his girlfriend at her father's house off Smith Road in Butte at about 6:30 or 7 p.m. Sunday, said his mother, Edie Grunwald. He said something about maybe stopping by a friend's house, but it was unlikely he went anywhere for long because he was wearing slippers. The friend said he never saw David.

Grunwald never returned home to the family's house off Gershmel Loop in Palmer.

Troopers say the Bronco turned up around 12:30 p.m. Monday on the trail off Solitude Street and Sitze Road, about 20 minutes away.

Grunwald attended Academy Charter through middle school, then spent two years at Colony High School before transferring to Mat-Su Career and Technical High School to focus on aviation.

All Edie Grunwald could do was speculate about what happened to her son.

"Somebody bad has interfered. It's out of his control," she said.

People want to do something — anything — to find the teen with the shy smile who offered rides to friends whenever they needed a lift.

"I totally understand that," Edie Grunwald said.

But she said she hopes everyone — especially any teens involved — is careful while they search for David.

"It's cold, and it's rough terrain," Grunwald said. "I love the fact that they want to go out and look. But this is why parents want to protect their kids — because bad things can happen to them."

David Grunwald was last seen wearing an orange North Face jacket or pullover and jeans. Troopers are asking anyone with information to call 907-352-5401.

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