Fourth suspect in David Grunwald murder case pleads guilty to murder, kidnapping
Austin Barrett — the final of four defendants charged in connection with the 2016 murder of David Grunwald — pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony second degree murder.
The change of plea comes after a Palmer judge
in January on the grounds that police and prosecutors violated his rights by continuing to question him even after he asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during the investigation.
According to Palmer District Attorney, Roman Kalytiak, that ruling complicated the decision to go to trial or not.
"Obviously that's a problem for the prosecution when the main piece of evidence is suppressed. That causes people to recalculate," Kalytiak said.
Additionally, after the plea deal hearing, Kalytiak did credit Barrett with not showing off a 'gangster type attitude,' like some of the others involved with the murder. Barrett also offered testimony to help convict the others.
In the Palmer courtroom for Barrett's change of plea hearing Wednesday, Edie and Ben Grunwald were surrounded by supporters filling the courtroom.
Edie Grunwald, along with many of the people in the courtroom, were wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the words ‘Justice for David’.
Barrett’s family was not present.
Barrett is the last of four suspects to face trial for Grunwald's murder — Bradley Renfro, Dominique Johnson, and Erick Almandinger have all been convicted after jury trials. Barrett is the only defendant who opted for a plea deal rather than face trial.
Since the others went through a trial, there's a chance they could appeal the courts decision in the future.
"One of the good things about a plea bargain is that there's no appeals to have to deal with," Edie Grunwald said on Barrett's decision, "He can press forward with his sentence and his life and getting ready for his next phase of life, and we can put that part behind us."
While there's no question irreparable damage had been done to the Grunwalds following David's murder, Edie Grunwald said she finds Barrett's decision to be significant to some degree.
"The fact that he would come forward and go ahead and plead guilty and waive a lot of those rights, accept responsibility, and be held accountable, you know, says a lot," she said.
Barrett's sentencing is scheduled for October. Under the terms of the plea deal, he faces up to 45 years in prison and 10 years of probation.