One snowy day in January last year, Utah County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Cory Wride approached a pickup truck pulled over on the side of the road. Meagan Grunwald, 17, and her much-older boyfriend were inside.
That boyfriend was Jose Angel Garcia-Juaregui, 27, the first person to have ever told the trouble teen he loved her. Those who testified in her nine-day trial — which concluded Wednesday with a 30-year prison sentence — said Meagan would’ve done anything he asked, CBS News reported.
Jose had a warrant out for his arrest, so when the sheriff’s deputy asked his name, the man gave him a fake one. Wride became suspicious, so Juaregui shot him through the truck’s rear window as he sat in his cruiser, The Daily Herald recounted.
Grunwald hit the gas and led police officers on a 50-mile chase through three counties, Jose’s willing accomplice, attorneys argued. Meagan told the jury that her boyfriend turned his gun on her, demanding she keep driving lest he kill her and her family.
The chase ended in a shootout that killed Jose, leaving Meagan distraught, cursing, and yelling at officers, according to the Deseret News.
Grunwald was eventually charged as an adult for aggravated murder — which comprises 25 years of her sentence — even though she didn’t fire a shot; Utah law still held Meagan accountable for Jose’s actions. She was found guilty of 11 charges in May, including a first-degree felony charge of aggravated robbery, for which she’ll serve five years.
All of it was avoidable, however. Deputy Greg Sherwood, who was shot in the head during the crime spree and still hasn’t recovered, said he “would have given all my energy protecting her,” as would any officer that day, if only Meagan had approached them asking for help. Instead, Meagan made a choice. Now, she’ll spend the next three decades in prison.
“I’m very sorry for any pain I might have caused. I do regret all of my actions,” Grunwald said in court. Now 18, she called Sgt. Wride a savior who saved her life, and recalled Jose as a devil. “This experience changed my life. I will always wonder if I could have stopped him. It was difficult to ask for forgiveness when I have a hard time forgiving myself.”
Meagan now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and nightmares, and sees Wride’s face every night in her dreams, her attorney said.
The court, and the deputy’s family, seemed to take Grunwald’s unfortunate home life and circumstances into account as her sentence approached. Meagan’s attorney pointed out during the trial that his client was simple-minded, impoverished, had two learning-disabled parents and was learning disabled herself, then found herself seduced by an older man.
During the trial, the deputy’s widow, Nanette, said she began to see remorse in Meghan’s eyes, and she and her family ultimately decided — albeit with difficulty — to forgive Grunwald and ask the court for leniency.
“I looked at her square in the eyes, and I could see it, I could see that she was truly sorry. I could see the weight lifted because she was wanting us to forgive her. I think the biggest thing is going to be her forgiving herself now. She’s just a sweet girl and yes, she made bad choices. There will be no judgment from our family.”
Meagan will be in her 40s when she gets out of prison, and that thought brings joy to the deputy’s widow, who said she wants “her to be able to live a life.” Her father, Jerry Grunwald, hoped for much the same.
“Help Meagan grow and learn to deal with this, to get counseling so she can move on in her life,” he told the court
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