Down a desolate trail, a burnt out Ford Bronco belonging to David Grunwald was uncovered by investigators the day after he had been reported missing. There had been no signs of Grunwald, but the ground had still been warm and all evidence was pointing to foul play.
According to reports, Grunwald was last heard from on November 13, 2016, when he called to ask his parents to stay out a little later than usual in order to get his girlfriend home safely. When he hadn’t return home by 10pm, the Grunwalds began to fear the worst. By 11:30pm, the Grunwalds had called Alaska State Police to report that their teenage son had been missing.
It would be another two weeks before the Grunwalds learned of their son’s fate. Charged in connection to Grunwald’s murder was a boy who was allegedly a friend of his – 16-year-old Erick Almandinger. Police received conflicting reports from Almandinger, but have since come to a general consensus on what happened on the night of November 13th.
Grunwald had dropped his girlfriend off at approximately 8pm that evening, but instead of going directly home, Grunwald had other plans.
Parked behind the home of Almandinger was a 1971 camper trailer. Almandinger had used this trailer as a hangout and on the night of November 13th he had invited Grunwald and another teen over to party. Grunwald accepted the invite.
Inside the trailer, the teens had been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. Another boy who had been with them that evening had also asked Almandinger to bring along a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun.
At some point a dispute between Almandinger and Grunwald broke out. Almandinger accused Grunwald of smoking all of his marijuana. The butt of the handgun Almandinger brought to the party was used to bludgeon Grunwald. The boys loaded Grunwald, who had been slipping in and out of consciousness, into his Ford Bronco and drove him to a wooded area. According to Almandinger, it was the other teen who decided to pull the trigger.
The boys then fled the area, incinerating Grunwald’s Bronco before they left. Back at Almandinger’s trailer, the two teens stripped out the carpeting and burned it in the yard, then used bleach in an attempt to clean up the blood that had splattered across the walls.
By the time the boys had returned to the trailer, Mr. Grunwald had already been in contact with Alaska State Police. Believing that Grunwald may have decided to drive Almandinger to Anchorage, police set up patrols along the Parks and Glenn Highways. They were unfruitful in their efforts.
Police began to conduct interviews with Grunwald’s friends. Almandinger told them that he had not seen Grunwald for several weeks, but did tell investigators that Grunwald had dropped off a mutual friend on the night of his disappearance.
A search warrant was obtained to search Almandinger’s home. When investigators arrived to the camper trailer they were overwhelmed by the scent of bleach. Further testing and analysis inside the trailer indicated a presence of blood. This, combined with cellphone records showing that Almandinger had been in the area Grunwald’s truck had been located, was enough to charge him in connection to the case.
Police continued to conduct interviews with friends and acquaintances of Grunwald’s and Almandinger’s. It was through these interviews that police learned that Almandinger had confessed to at least one other boy that he and another teen had killed Grunwald, possibly over a bag of marijuana.
On December 2nd, police were able to speak with the other teen connected to Grunwald’s murder and he was able to lead investigators to where he and Almandinger had left Grunwald’s body.
Since Almandinger’s arrest, it has been learned that more people may have been at Almandinger’s trailer on the night of Grunwald’s murder and four other teens – Dominic Johnson, Devin Peterson, Austin Barrett and Bradley Renfro – have been charged in connection to the case.