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Dominic Johnson sentenced to 99 years for his role in David Grunwald’s murder

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 4:27 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 5, 2021 at 8:33 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - Dominic Johnson, one of four then-teenagers convicted of the execution-style murder of a fellow Palmer teen in 2016, has been sentenced to 99 years in prison.

Johnson, 18 years-old at the time of his conviction in December 2018, was sentenced to serve 99 years in prison on Wednesday by Palmer Superior Court Judge Gregory Heath.

The three other young men in the case, Erick Almandinger, Austin Barrett, and Bradley Renfro, have also been convicted. Barrett is the only one of them who did not face trial, but rather made a plea deal in 2020 for second-degree murder.

The four had beaten Grunwald in a trailer behind a home in Palmer. They drove Grunwald to the Knik River in his Ford Bronco, where they shot and killed him. Their motive for killing Grunwald has never been made completely clear.

Johnson was convicted on nine charges including first-degree murder, three counts of second-degree murder, kidnapping, first-degree assault, tampering with evidence, first-degree vehicle theft and third-degree arson. Heath did not make an independent sentence for the three second-degree murder counts.

“I’m standing here today broken,” said Edie Grunwald, David’s mother, as she spoke at the sentencing hearing. “The pain boils rather than simmers. It grows. It gets worse. I’m having a hard time lately dealing with this.”

“I stand before this court a broken father, a broken husband with a broken family,” Grunwald’s father, Ben said. “If only you remove this convicted murderer from society for as long as my son stays buried in the national cemetery, this is for me equitable.”

Johnson then got his turn to speak before Heath issued the sentence.

“I have no excuse for what I’ve done,” Johnson said. “I take full responsibility for my conduct, and the pain I’ve caused the Grunwalds and their family.”

Johnson received 99 years in prison on the charge of first-degree murder, with 20 of those years suspended. On top of that, Heath sentenced him to 10 years for the kidnapping charge, and five for the assault charge. Johnson received five years each for the arson and tampering with physical evidence, but those run concurrent to each other.

Johnson was also sentenced to 18 months for the vehicle theft charge, with all 18 months suspended, for a total sentence of 99 years to serve.

Johnson is the second of the four involved in the crime to be sentenced. Barrett was sentenced to 45 years in November 2020.

Because Johnson’s sentencing fell under Senate Bill 91, he will be eligible for mandatory parole after he has served two thirds of his sentence, or 66 years, according to Heath. He will be eligible for discretionary parole after 36 years if he abides by the rules of the facility where he’s held.

Copyright 2021 KTUU. All rights reserved.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with quotes from the sentencing hearing.