Four additional teens have been charged in connection with the kidnapping and murder of David Grunwald, the 16-year-old whose remains were found on Dec. 2 after he went missing in November, bringing the number of teens charged to five.
Devin Peterson, 18, Austin Barrett, 19, and two minor teens were all taken into custody for allegedly playing a role in David’s death, according to a news release from the Alaska State Troopers obtained by PEOPLE.
Peterson, of Wasilla, is charged with evidence tampering and hindering prosecution in the first degree. Barrett, 19, of Palmer, is charged with murder in the first degree, kidnapping, and murder in the second degree. The two youngest suspects, both 16 and from Wasilla, are charged with murder in the first degree, kidnapping, murder in the second degree, and evidence tampering. It is unclear if the two minor suspects will be charged as adults.
Last week, 16-year-old Erick Almandinger allegedly confessed to involvement in the killing, saying he was a friend of David’s, according to the state troopers. He was charged with murder in the first degree, kidnapping, murder in the second degree and evidence tampering. He has been charged as an adult.
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David was reported missing on Nov. 13, after he didn’t come home from hanging out with friends. His father, worried, called Alaska State Troopers and the following day, David’s 1995 Ford Bronco was found torched on a forest trail, according to the state troopers.
On Dec. 2, the same day David’s remains were discovered, Almandinger allegedly confessed, court documents obtained by PEOPLE state. Almandinger allegedly told investigators David came over to hang out, drink and smoke with two friends when things turned violent.
“The only motive that Almandinger indicated was present during the event was that [David] had smoked all his weed,” the documents state.
The 16-year-old was allegedly struck with a handgun until he was knocked unconscious, driven to a remote location in the woods and fatally shot after pleading for his life, the court documents state. It is still unclear who pulled the trigger, authorities say.
Almandinger has not entered a plea. He will appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Dec. 13, Palmer County Court officials tell PEOPLE. He remains in custody and has not yet retained an attorney.
It is unclear whether Peterson, Barrett and the two others have entered a plea, retained attorneys, or remain in custody. All four will also appear in court on Dec. 13, according to Palmer County Court officials.
Since his death was announced, classmates and friends have come together to honor David.
At Mat-Su Career & Tech, David’s high school, one classroom plans to keep his chair empty until the end of the semester.
“It’s one thing I can do in my classroom as a tribute and an honor to his life, the impact he had in our classroom and the impact this has had on our community,” Zack Lanphier, David’s former teacher, tells PEOPLE.
“David was an amazing person,” his mother, Edie Grunwald, tells PEOPLE. “He [was] the love of our life. He had hopes and dreams.”
On Saturday, the Palmer County community held a candlelight vigil for David, his mother says. Friends, family and community leaders shared memories and stories.
“[It] was quite special,” Edie says. “He has become Palmer’s child.”
Parents Say Death Penalty Should Be Considered
In an interview with KTVA, David’s parents called his death “unconscionable” and said Alaska should consider implementing the death penalty, which has not existed in Alaska since it became a state in 1959.
“My son doesn’t get to breathe anymore. He’s gone,” Edie Grunwald told the station. “These kids — or these people — they get to breathe.”
Added David’s father, Ben Grunwald, “Would we take that wild animal, catch it, put it in a pen, feed it three times a day, [and] give it medical attention when it got a sore paw? What would we do?”