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Sexual assault, child porn charges filed in cases linked to death of Palmer teen

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: January 10, 2017
  • Published January 9, 2017

PALMER — Court documents show that the investigation into the killing of David Grunwald has led to two other separate criminal cases, one involving a teen already charged in the death of the popular 16-year-old from Palmer.

Devin Peterson appears before judge Kari Kristiansen at the Palmer Courthouse Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, in a preliminary hearing for charges of child pornography. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

Devin Peterson, an 18-year-old from Wasilla, was charged late last month with possessing child pornography and distribution of indecent materials to minors, according to a Palmer grand jury indictment filed in court Friday.

In another case, 22-year-old Jordan Santistevan was charged last week with first-degree sexual assault and other charges based on evidence discovered during the Grunwald investigation, according to a sworn affidavit filed with the charges in Palmer court. Santistevan was living in Wasilla last summer.

Grunwald went missing Nov. 13 after he dropped off his girlfriend in Butte. Troopers the next day found his burned Ford Bronco on the rough road leading up Bald Mountain Ridge near Wasilla. Hundreds searched for the teen until his remains were found Dec. 2.

Alaska State Troopers arrested five teens for their alleged roles in the Grunwald death the weekend of Dec. 9. The case has garnered national headlines and brought local attention to problems with teen crime, homelessness and drug houses in the Valley.

Four Valley youths ages 16 to 19 are being held without bail on charges they killed Grunwald, stole his Bronco and set it on fire. Sunday would have been Grunwald's 17th birthday.

Peterson wasn't charged with murder, but is accused of helping destroy evidence and covering up the crime. He's being held at Goose Creek Correctional Center on $100,000 bail and release to a third-party custodian.

The grand jury handed up an indictment on six charges of possession of child pornography for six different images possessed between Nov. 30 and Dec. 6, according to the indictment.

Peterson was also charged with distributing indecent material for sending a photo of his own genitalia via Snapchat to someone younger than 16, according to prosecutors and the charging document. All of the new charges are Class C felonies.

The evidence for the case might not have been discovered had it not been for the Grunwald murder investigation, according to an email from prosecutor Melissa Wininger-Howard.

Peterson is scheduled for arraignment in Palmer Tuesday morning.

The Peterson case is not believed to be related to the Jordan Santistevan case, Wininger-Howard wrote.

One investigation leads to another

The case against Santistevan came to light during "a complex criminal investigation involving the initial disappearance of a teenager in the Mat-Su Valley, which ultimately resulted in a homicide investigation," according to an affidavit filed by troopers investigator Mike Ingram, making an apparent reference to the Grunwald case.

Another investigator seized a cellphone from a suspect on Nov. 30, Ingram wrote; the phone contained a video from July that showed an "unknown male" having sex with a 15-year-old girl who appeared to be passed out and unable to provide consent.

The murder investigation allowed troopers to identify her, Ingram wrote. The affidavit said the video was recorded in a camper located at a business near Wasilla.

A relative of the victim said the girl was drinking vodka and using marijuana through the night; the girl later said she didn't remember the encounter, according to the affidavit.

The relative identified Santistevan, who had moved to Fairbanks over the summer, Ingram wrote.

A family member of Santistevan's declined comment Monday.

He was being held at Mat-Su Pretrial Facility on charges of first- and second-degree sexual assault and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor as of Monday, according to an inmate database.

Santistevan was arraigned in Fairbanks last week, according to a court system database. His next hearing is in Palmer on Friday.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly reported that a relative of defendant Jordan Santistevan identified him. It was the victim's relative who identified Santistevan.

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