Palmer resident Erick Almandinger was sentenced on Aug. 8 to serve 99 years in prison for the 2016 kidnapping and murder of his Colony High School classmate, 16-year-old David Grunwald.

David Grunwald was murdered in 2016.

During sentencing, Palmer Superior Court Judge Gregory Heath said Almandinger’s crimes were truly horrific and committed for no apparent reason. Judge Heath said the crimes warranted a severe sentence reflecting general deterrence, reaffirmation of societal norms, and community condemnation.

A statement from the Alaska Dept. of Law notes that Almandinger was convicted in 2018 by a Palmer jury of nine charges, including murder, kidnapping and arson. Almandinger was 16 at the time of the crimes.

He supplied the pistol used by a group of teens to beat Grunwald on Nov. 13, 2016, in a camper behind Almandinger’s home.

“After the beating, Grunwald was driven for nearly half an hour in his own vehicle, walked into the woods near the Knik River, and executed,” the Dept. of Law statement notes.

Grunwald’s car was discovered burned, miles away near the Talkeetna Mountains and his body was found nearly three weeks later after defendant Dominic Johnson led law enforcement to the area.

In total, Almandinger was sentenced to 99 years with 20 suspended for 79 years to serve for murder in the first degree, five years for assault in the first degree, 30 years, with 20 suspended, for kidnapping (10 years to serve consecutively), a $2,500 fine for arson, five years for tampering with physical evidence, and a $2,500 fine for vehicle theft in the first degree. The total composite sentence for Almandinger is 99 years to serve.

Palmer District Attorney Melissa Howard, who has been helping to prosecute the case for six years, argued for the maximum sentence for each crime for a total of 209 years to serve.

“David Grunwald was a 16-year-old boy who was deeply loved by his family and friends, whose lives have been shattered by their loss and the haunting thoughts of what David endured the last hours of his life,” she said. “The sentence imposed is reflective of the senseless brutality of the crime and the calculated steps the defendants took to cover it up.”

Almandinger is the third person to be sentenced of the four teens who were charged with the 2016 murder. Dominic Johnson received a sentence of 99 years to serve for first-degree murder, and Austin Barrett received a sentence of 45 years for second-degree murder. Bradley Renfro will be sentenced later this week.

Young man sentenced to 99 years for 2016 murder of Colony High classmate

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.