Family and friends of slain Wasilla teen look to each other — instead of the court — to find closure

Sentencing hearing for Jordan Flowers on Friday has now been delayed for the third time since the end of June
The sentencing hearing for Jordan Flowers - charged with the murder of Gunnar Swan in 2019 - was delayed for the third time since June.
Published: Aug. 26, 2022 at 6:29 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - Morning rain reflected the somber mood that was felt in front of the Palmer Courthouse Friday morning as family and friends of a slain Wasilla teen gathered on the front lawn in a peaceful assembly.

The sentencing hearing for Jordan Flowers — charged with the murder of Gunnar Swan in January 2019 — was delayed for the third time since the end of June.

The mother of the victim, Monika Swan-Armitstead, decided she and her family would move forward with reading their impact statements at the same time the hearing was intended to be held. In attendance was Edie Grunwald, who just recently attended the sentencing of the fourth and final defendant in the murder trial of her own son, David.

“We’re all making the choice now to find our own closure, regardless of what the court system does, regardless of what Jordan Flowers does,” Swan-Armtistead said. “We’re choosing to find our own closure and to move forward and find healing in our lives, and I think to make that choice as a group together of people that loved Gunnar is tremendous.”

Swan-Armitstead said she is frustrated by Palmer Superior Court Judge Jonathan Woodman’s move to delay the hearing again. She’s moving out of state tomorrow and was hoping this chapter of her life could be closed before she left. She told Judge Woodman over the phone that she would no longer attend any hearings pertaining to Flowers.

“I said, if you guys reschedule this again, I said, I’m done,” Swan-Armitstead said. “I’m not going to participate in the court system anymore, I don’t want anything to do with Jordan Flowers.”

According to Swan-Armitstead, Flowers was unable to attend the hearing due to an illness. She asked Judge Woodman for a doctor’s note stating that Flowers was too sick to attend and requested the hearing be held telephonically.

“The judge only talked about Jordan Flowers’ rights,” Swan-Armitstead stated. “I came away from the conversation feeling like he didn’t care about Gunnar, myself, my family at all, or our rights as victims.”

Judge Woodman and Flowers’ defense attorney, Julia Moudy could not be reached for comment as of Friday afternoon. The Department of Law did release a statement regarding the hearing’s continuation.

“The sentencing in this case was continued over the objection of Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Del Frate,” department spokesperson Patty Sullivan wrote. “The Department of Law respects and acknowledges the tremendous hardship and emotional turmoil that this causes the victim’s family.”

Friends of Gunnar Swan stand in the rain in front of the Palmer Courthouse listening to his...
Friends of Gunnar Swan stand in the rain in front of the Palmer Courthouse listening to his families impact statements that were supposed to be read in court Friday.(AKNS)

Swan-Armitstead, along with Gunnar’s extended family and friends, took turns reading the impact statements they wrote a year ago. The powerful words of heartache and trauma — meant for Gunnar’s killer — fell only on those who were closest to him.

“Jordan Flowers, if you spend one more second of your life doing anything other than trying to serve the rest of humanity through love, compassion, and acts of service, you will do nothing to honor Gunnar’s life that you stole, my life that you utterly wrecked, and the lives of all those who loved Gunnar so dearly,” Swan-Armitstead read from her statement.

The chance for Swan-Armitstead and her family to move on and heal came to a close as she hugged and thanked each individual who attended the last-minute gathering. The letters they wrote to Flowers have now been said out loud, even if Flowers may never have heard them.