Pandemic delays Dominic Johnson’s sentencing for Grunwald murder

Johnson was scheduled to be the first of four people sentenced for his role in the beating and killing of the Palmer 16-year-old.
 Dominic Johnson sits in court on the first day of his trial for murder. (KTUU)
Dominic Johnson sits in court on the first day of his trial for murder. (KTUU) (KTUU)
Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 11:32 AM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) -Dominic Johnson’s sentencing for the killing of Palmer teen David Grunwald has been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson is one of four men convicted of murdering 16-year-old Grunwald in November 2016. After a month-long trial, a jury found Johnson guilty of all nine charges, including first-degree murder, in December 2018.

Erick Almandinger was the first to go to trial and was convicted in May 2018. Bradley Renfro went to trial in Fairbanks after the venue was moved because of the attention surrounding the first two trials. After six weeks of testimony, a jury convicted him of first-degree murder in October 2019.

Austin Barrett was the only person who did not go to trial. He made an agreement with state prosecutors in February this year and pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree murder.

Johnson was scheduled to be the first of the four sentenced for his crime. His sentencing hearing was originally scheduled for Oct. 28-29. Judge Gregory Heath cited “ongoing issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic” and rescheduled the hearing to Dec. 30-31.

Grunwald’s mother, Edie Grunwald, said her family members had already purchased tickets to come up for the sentencing in October. She said it’s been difficult to have justice delayed for her son.

“Everybody was real hopeful to get all of this done this year because people really want to get on with their lives,” Edie said. “Ben and I, it’s forever for us.”

Edie had a banner made with graphic photos that were shown during the trial of David’s bruised hands from his autopsy and a picture of his frozen body taken at the crime scene.

She plans to display that during all of the sentencing hearings.

“It’s pretty horrible and it’s really just a reminder of what they did to our son and how they left him in the woods,” she said.

Barrett is still on the court’s calendar to be sentenced Nov. 12 -13.

Nov. 13 is the four-year anniversary of Grunwald’s death.

Almandinger and Renfro won’t be sentenced until 2021.

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