Alaska State Troopers say the body found Friday afternoon is believed to be missing 16-year-old David Grunwald of Palmer, Alaska, and five other teenagers are facing murder and kidnapping charges in connection to the case, according to KTVA.
Human remains were found near Knik River Road and were immediately sent to a local medical examiner’s office for identification and cause of death.
However, police have reason to believe that human remains are of the missing Palmer teen.
A 16-year-old boy, Erick Almandinger, was arrested and charged as an adult for the kidnapping and murder of Grunwald, who police say was abducted and forced to walk into a wooded area where he was shot dead execution style.
It was reported that the teen arrested in the murder case has denied pulling the trigger but one of his acquaintances, Devin Peterson, told authorities that Almandinger drove to his home and confessed to killing the missing Palmer teen and needed advice but sent him away because he didn’t want to get in trouble.
Peterson reportedly omitted the fact that he advised Almandinger to burn Grunwald’s vehicle and he also “suppressed, concealed or removed both 9mm and.40-caliber pistols involved in the crime.”
Almandinger admitted that he and Grunwald were together on the night he was reported missing, – November 13 – having drinks and smoking inside of a trailer behind his home but claims they weren’t alone.
He says another teen, who is being identified as Dominic Johnson, 16, was also in the trailer and later sent a text message to Almandinger, while he was inside of his home, to bring a.40 caliber semi-automatic handgun back to the trailer.
When he did, Johnson allegedly “bludgeoned Grunwald with the gun before they both put him in the back of his Bronco as he was drifting in and out of consciousness.”
Court documents stated that “Almandinger said he provided driving directions to Johnson towards the Butte and as they drove towards the Butte he knew they were going to kill “Grunwald.”
The two teens reportedly “forced Grunwald to walk into the woods where Almandinger claims Johnson shot him dead.”
The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reported that Almandinger’s story continued to change during police interrogation. At one point, he stated that Johnson didn’t pull the trigger, it was another 16-year-old boy by the name of Austin Barrett.
Almandinger did, however, admit to torching the teens’ vehicle in a bid to destroy evidence before returning to the trailer and cleaning it with bleach to obliterate any evidence that Grunwald had been there, police discovered during a search.
Later that night, Grunwald’s parents reported the teen missing when he never returned home. It was reported that after taking his 17-year-old girlfriend, who he spent the day with, home he called his mother, Edith, and told her that he wanted to stop by a friend’s house.
Grunwald stated that he might not make his 9:00-curfew and would only be 20 minutes late but as the hours flew by, there was no sign of the teen.
The following day, his 1995 Ford Bronco was discovered abandoned and burned down to its frame at the Talkeetna Mountains north of Wasilla, which is 21 miles from his girlfriend’s home.
Hundreds of locals gathered, searching the areas of “Palmer, Jim Creek near Butte, and the trail up Bald Mountain Ridge where the Bronco turned up” but they had no luck in finding the missing teen.
Weeks after his disappearance, Grunwald’s body is believed to have been found near Knik River Road.
Almandinger and Johnson were arrested in connection to the Grunwald killing along with three others: 20-year old Austin Barrett, Bradley Renfro, 16, and Peterson.
A vigil was held Friday for the slain Palmer teen in the Borealis Theatre on the Alaska State Fairgrounds, where more than 500 people attended.
A family friend, Gina Spangler, who organized the vigil, stated that “it could be anyone of our children, David was absolutely the all-American kid.”
“It’s sort of morphed into something more. The community needs this, they need this time, they need this forum to sort of grieve and move on.”
Spangler’s husband Tom added, “I think we’re all still in a state of shock. It feels like there’s been a complete loss of innocence. There’s no closure to be had here, it’s about providing a family with whatever support is possible to bare an unbearable burden.”
“We’re all parents, we all have children – it’s horrific.”
The motive behind the Grunwald killing has not been released nor has the other teen’s involvement in the murder case.
This is a developing story.
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