Trial begins for second teen accused in 2016 death of David Grunwald

Dominic Johnson sits in court on the first day of his trial for murder. (KTUU)
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Trial began Monday for one of five men accused in the 2016 murder of David Grunwald, a 16-year-old high school student. Dominic Johnson, now 18, is accused of participating in the beating and shooting death.

Although prosecutors say they may never know for sure who pulled the trigger, under Alaska law, everyone who participated in the crime can be held responsible for the teen’s murder, Prosecutor Roman Kalytiak told jurors.

In Kalytiak's opening statement crime scene photos, photos of the defendants, and photos of David smiling and vibrant, flashed across an overhead projector. Johnson, in a white oxford shirt and recent short, tidy haircut, maintained a steady gaze forward, seated next to his attorney.

Grunwald’s beating and eventual killing was a “unanimous and intentional group effort,” Kalytiak said. Johnson and others in “a close-knit group of wannabe gang-bangers,” decided together to pistol whip Grunwald, and “march David into the dark woods” where he would be executed with a gunshot to the head, Kalytiak said. The group then disposed of their guns, bleached a trailer where the beating had occurred, torched Grunwald’s Ford Bronco, and left the teen’s body for weeks in the forest until, on Dec. 2, 2016, Johnson helped authorities locate it.

In stark contrast, in an opening statement lasting only a few minutes, Johnson’s attorney Lyle Stohler urged jurors to “not get caught up in the emotion,” and to listen closely to what Johnson did, and more importantly, did not do.

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