Austin Barrett

Austin Barrett.

PALMER — Palmer Judge Gregory Heath recently excluded Austin Barrett’s statements made during his interview with authorities prior to his Grand Jury indictment so the interview cannot be used as evidence.

Barrett is the last of four suspects to face trial for the assault, kidnapping and subsequent murder of 16-year-old David Grunwald November of 2016. Erick Almandinger, Dominic Johnson and Bradley Renfro have all been convicted of first-degree murder in the Grunwald trial.

Heath also dismissed Barrett’s seven Grand Jury indictment charges since they relied on his testimony from that interview.

Grunwald’s mother Edie Grunwald met with Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak Monday, Jan. 13 to learn more about the ruling.

“I don’t know anything new from our meeting. We left disappointed and saddened at the ruling and hope the district attorney’s office appeal the ruling. It is yet another example of how criminal rights’ laws are so far out of balance to that of victims. It is not about justice or truth,” Grunwald said.

The recent ruling stemmed from an evidentiary hearing in December of 2019. During the proceedings, Barrett’s defense attorney Craig Howard argued that his client “unequivocally and unambiguously” invoked his right to remain silent when he “pleaded the fifth” toward the beginning of his December of 2016 interview with investigating Alaska State Troopers Lt. Mike Ingram and Sgt. Tony Wegrzyn, according to court documents.

The conversation continued at the Palmer post interview room after Barrett plead the fifth. Barrett made several incriminating statements during the remainder of the interview, admitting that he was present in Almandinger’s trailer where Grunwald was being beaten and pistol whipped. Barrett was eventually escorted to the DA’s office to continue with Kalytiak present.

‘The four-minute interval between the end of the Trooper Post interview at the start of the interview with the DA’s office was not sufficient to cure the defect, nor was Defendant given a fresh Miranda warning, making the entire interview one continuous custodial interrogation,” Heath stated in his ruling motion.

Heath decided that without Barrett’s inculpatory statements and codefendant’s testimony regarding his presence during the assault, there was little admissible evidence left for the seven Grand Jury charges.

“After excluding the inadmissible evidence and looking at the testimony in the light most favorable to upholding the indictment, it is clear that probable cause did not exist to charge… [Barrett] with any of the seven counts returned by the Grand Jury,” Heath stated in his ruling motion.

Barrett will remain in custody until new indictment charges are filed. His next court appearance is a status hearing Jan. 22.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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