Friday, April 18, 2014

Teen suspect in fatal deputy shooting not eligible for death penalty

By Pat Reavy, Deseret News

Published: Wed, Feb. 19 12:30 p.m. MST

 Sgt. Cory Wride of the Utah County Sheriff's Office tries to calm a suicidal man wielding a knife during crisis intervention training for Utah County law enforcement officers in Provo on Friday, May 10, 2013. Wride was shot and killed in the line of duty on Jan. 30, 2014.

Sgt. Cory Wride of the Utah County Sheriff's Office tries to calm a suicidal man wielding a knife during crisis intervention training for Utah County law enforcement officers in Provo on Friday, May 10, 2013. Wride was shot and killed in the line of duty on Jan. 30, 2014.

(Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

PROVO — Interim Utah County Attorney Tim Taylor says Meagan Dakota Grunwald was just as responsible for the killing of Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Cory Wride as her boyfriend was.

"We feel she's absolutely as culpable under Utah law as he is."

Taylor spoke Wednesday to further explain why the 17-year-old girl was charged with aggravated murder in adult court.

"From the time Sgt. Wride was killed and they left the scene, every information we have is that she was an active participant," Taylor said. "She was not just along for the ride."

Prosecutors believe Jose Angel Garcia-Juaregui, 27, shot and killed Wride and critically wounded Utah County sheriff's deputy Greg Sherwood by shooting him in the head. But under Utah law, Grunwald can be charged with the identical crimes that Garcia-Juaregui would have been charged with because she was aiding and abetting and was "an accessory to the crime," Taylor said.

Taylor said prosecutors have vehicle dashboard camera video from Utah County sheriff's deputies and the Utah Highway Patrol to aid in their case. Based on the video and witness statements, investigators believe Grunwald was an active participant and stayed with Garcia-Juaregui even when she had several chances to runaway.

He said Wednesday that it appeared Grunwald had already put her pickup truck into drive several minutes before Garcia-Juaregui stuck a gun out the back window and fired at Wride while parked along the side of state Route 73 near Eagle Mountain. The couple also appeared to wait until there was no other traffic around before shooting and then fleeing the area.

No death penalty

Taylor said Grunwald's age would be taken into consideration as the case moves forward.

Grunwald, who turns 18 in August, is not eligible for the death penalty because of her age. The maximum sentence she could receive if convicted is life in prison without the possibility of parole. Taylor could not say yet whether he would seek the maximum sentence.

After being arrested by Utah County sheriff's officers on Tuesday, she was transferred to the Salt Lake County Jail where she will be housed during a trial to avoid any possible conflict of interest. She was being held Wednesday on $1 million bail.

Also Wednesday, Taylor said contrary to what Grunwald's friends told investigators, the teenage suspect is not pregnant.

Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon said it is routine for the jail to give a pregnancy test to each inmate booked where there is a suspicion of pregnancy.

Taylor did confirm that Grunwald tested positive for methamphetamine after her arrest. Investigators were still waiting for a more conclusive report to measure how much methamphetamine was in her system at the time of her arrest. Toxicology results for Garcia-Juaregui were also pending as of Wednesday.

Motive unknown

A motive for the shooting spree was still unknown Wednesday. The Utah County Sheriff's Office, aided by federal investigators, was working on tracing where Garcia-Juaregui got the gun he used in the shooting.

Garcia-Juaregui, who had already been convicted and served prison time for attempted murder, was a restricted felon and not allowed to posses a firearm. Taylor said all investigators knew for sure Wednesday was that the weapon was not stolen.

After Garcia-Juaregui was shot by police and lying on the ground before he died, he continued to clutch his handgun — which deputies had to pry out of his hands — and continued to reach to his waistband. When deputies got to him, his handgun and an extra magazine found in his waistband were both empty.

Meagan Grunwald is charged with aggravated murder, two counts of felony discharge of a firearm with serious bodily injury, two counts of attempted aggravated murder, and aggravated robbery, all first-degree felonies.

She is also charged with two counts of obstructing justice, a second-degree felony; two counts of felony discharge of a firearm, possession or use of a controlled substance, and failure to respond to an officer's signal to stop, all third-degree felonies; criminal mischief, a class A misdemeanor; and violation of operator duties for accident involving property damage, a class B misdemeanor.

Prosecutors also filed alternative charges of murder, a first-degree felony; and two counts of attempted murder, a first-degree felony, in case the aggravated elements of those three charges are not met.

Her initial court appearance was scheduled for Monday.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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1. sg
newhall, CA,
Feb. 19, 2014

Regardless of her age, she knew what she was doing; she knew that the officer was dead and continued being a participant. She should be tried as an adult and sentenced to death by firing squad. No life long sentence. There is absolutely no reason she should live.

2. pleblian
salt lake city, utah,
Feb. 19, 2014

"Teen". A 17 year old should never be eligible for the death penalty.

If a 17 year old is not mentally mature enough to lawfully consent to sex, then they certainly are not mentally mature enough to be held to an adult standard of punishment.

3. cavetroll
SANDY, UT,
Feb. 19, 2014

@sg, I would agree with you , but SCOTUS has decided minors cannot be given the death penalty. Hopefully she will spend the rest of her life behind bars.

4. pleblian
salt lake city, utah,
Feb. 19, 2014

"Hopefully she will spend the rest of her life behind bars"

While you and I likely agree in our outrage and anger regarding the murder and attempted murder of some wonderful fathers, we could not disagree more on how to punish a child.

If she lived to full expectancy, she would die in prison around 2079. That is nearly 80% of her life in prison. Absolutely makes no sense.

If it were an adult, I would agree that some killings and violent crimes cannot be served by less than a life sentence. With 17 year olds, pragmatism overcomes my anger.

5. carman
Wasatch Front, UT,
Feb. 19, 2014

plebian:

You don't have sufficient facts to state that "If she lived to full expectancy, she would die in prison around 2079. That is nearly 80% of her life in prison. Absolutely makes no sense...With 17 year olds, pragmatism overcomes my anger."

There may or may not be reason for her to spend the rest of her life in prison. Teen or not, she is way past the age where one becomes aware of the hideousness of murder. She aided in the killing of a police officer, a husband, a father, a brother, and a son. She took away something that cannot be returned to these family members. As sad is it is, she may deserve to lose her freedom for life. At least her family could write and talk, and she could enjoy some measure of creativity, learning and growth. That is more than can be said for Officer Wride. These crimes deserve serious consequences. If a judge and jury decide the facts warrant life in prison, that may be justified and a small part of the tragedy.