PALMER, Alaska (AP) — A man involved in the 2016 execution-style killing of a teenager in 2016 near Anchorage was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
Palmer Superior Court Judge Gregory Heath sentenced Dominic Johnson on Wednesday for first-degree murder with 20 years suspended. Johnson got another 20 years for kidnapping, assault and other charges, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Johnson and three others were convicted in the assault and execution of 16-year-old David Grunwald near the Knik River. All four defendants were teens at the time of Grunwald’s death and were tried as adults.
Defendant Austin Barrett reached a plea deal and was sentenced to 45 years in November.
Juries have also convicted Erick Almandinger and Bradley Renfro of first-degree murder in Grunwald’s death. They are awaiting sentencing, which was delayed by the pandemic.
On the night of the killing, Grunwald smoked marijuana in a trailer behind Almandinger’s home in Palmer. Johnson, then 16, messaged Almandinger to bring a heavy gun. Grunwald was locked in a bathroom then pistol-whipped in the dark when he emerged, prosecutors said.
The defendants then used Grunwald’s vehicle to take him to the river. From there, he was walked into the woods, where he was shot and killed, prosecutors said. His body was not found for 19 days. Johnson later led Alaska State Troopers to the general area where the body was located.
Prosecutors presented evidence at trial that showed the four defendants partied together after the murder.
“There was something off in all four of these young people,” said Heath, who has retired from the bench but continues to preside over the Grunwald cases. Of Johnson’s desire to commit violence, the judge said: “I don’t know what motivated him to do that but it was not normal. And it was flat-out scary.”
Johnson apologized to Grunwald’s parents, Ben and Edie, before the sentence was handed down even though they had left the courtroom.
“We’re not staying,” Ben Grunwald said. “I don’t want to hear it, any lies, any BS. I don’t want to hear a word out of his mouth.”
Johnson said he was sorry for the pain he caused the family. “I wish every day I could go back and do things differently,” he said.
Johnson’s attorney, Lyle Stohler, sought leniency in sentencing. He said Johnson didn’t know his father and was raised by his grandmother until he was 12. He then moved in with his mother but was kicked out of her house four years later.
Stohler said the boy was homeless and spent the Thanksgiving holiday after the killing at a grocery store, using the free wireless connection.
Edie Grunwald noted in her testimony that her son also was not home for that Thanksgiving. Instead, his body was “out there,” in the woods. “Frostbit to the ground,” she said.
“Many young people have horrendous childhoods and make the right decisions,” she said. “Mr. Johnson learned the difference between right and wrong. Unfortunately, he instigated a night of violence. He pursued a night of torture and murder.”