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PROVO — Prosecutors in the case against a young woman charged in connection with the shooting death of a sheriff's sergeant want to show that Meagan Grunwald was more than just an unwilling participant.
The now-18-year-old, who rejected a plea deal in November, is charged with aggravated murder. She could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted at her upcoming trial.
Grunwald was 17 years old when she and her boyfriend, Jose Angel Garcia-Juaregui, 27, led police on a crime spree that started with the shooting death of Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Cory Wride in Eagle Mountain and the shooting of sheriff's deputy Greg Sherwood in Santaquin. That was followed by a carjacking in Nephi, and shots fired at pursuing officers on I-15 before Garcia was killed in a final shootout with deputies south of Nephi.
Although prosecutors say Garcia fired all of the shots on Jan. 30, 2014, they contend that Grunwald was a willing participant who was behind the wheel and continued to follow her boyfriend even when she had the chance to run from him.
Grunwald is expected to argue that she was under Garcia's control and forced to be the getaway driver or face potential harm herself.
In a series of newly filed court motions, prosecutors say they want to introduce additional evidence during her trial that further shows her relationship with Garcia.
The alleged altercation with Grunwald's father
The Utah County Attorney's Office wants to introduce an incident that happened on Jan. 11, about three weeks before Wride was shot. Garcia, who was living with Grunwald in her parents' Draper house, had a confrontation with Grunwald's father who disapproved of him sleeping in the same room as his daughter.
"During the course of the altercation, Angel pulled out a handgun which he was carrying on his person, pointed the gun at (Grunwald's father) and said he was going to 'blow his … mind away,'" the motion states.
Prosecutors contend that the event speaks to Grunwald's character because she continued to stick by Garcia even though he threatened to kill her father.
The prosecution want to inform jurors of the "knowledge that Angel possessed and carried a handgun on his person and that Angel was willing to use the weapon to threaten another person. The confrontation is also being offered to show that it was the defendant’s intent to aid and assist Angel on Jan. 30, 2014, by standing with and supporting her boyfriend even when Angel was participating in a violent crime."
Evidence of a committed relationship
In another motion, prosecutors want several of Grunwald's friends to be able to testify about the promise ring Garcia gave her, their plans to run away to Mexico and live together, Grunwald frequently seeking meth and Grunwald believing at one point that she was pregnant, according to court documents. The state also wants the testimony from Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Patty Johnston admitted. She is expected to testify that even after the gun battle that killed Garcia, Grunwald "was reluctant to give" the ring to authorities booking her into jail.
(Testimonies from friends) provide important evidence showing (Grunwald's) motive and intent in the crime spree, as well as her plan and preparation in assisting Garcia with the conspiracy to avoid apprehension at all costs.
–Court motion filed by prosecutors
"They provide important evidence showing her motive and intent in the crime spree, as well as her plan and preparation in assisting Garcia with the conspiracy to avoid apprehension at all costs. Moreover, a significant motive for (Grunwald) was to remain with Garcia regardless of the consequences," the motion states. "They are offered to show that (Grunwald) and Garcia were making plans on a grand scale to remain together and avoid apprehension, thus making it less likely that Garcia compelled (her) but more likely that she was a willing participant from the beginning of the plans, doing whatever was required to remain with her paramour."
The state also wants drawings, birthday cards, Facebook posts and even Garcia's tattoos admitted as evidence that show the deep affection between the teenager and Garcia.
Furthermore, the county attorney's office wants evidence admitted that it contends shows that "a significant motive for the conspiracy was due to (Grunwald's) strong emotional love for Angel and her determination to assist Angel from being apprehended by law enforcement which would permit Angel and the defendant to remain together."
That evidence includes a phone call Garcia made to an uncle in Texas shortly after Wride was killed. According to prosecutors, Garcia told the uncle he was in trouble and that, "I made 'carnitas.'" He allegedly further stated, "I'm with my girlfriend's people. They are protecting me. … I'm going to California."
Investigators also believe that during the final shootout, Grunwald tried to run after her boyfriend, who was trying to hijack another vehicle, rather than run to authorities. After she was in handcuffs and in a police patrol car, prosecutors say Grunwald continued showing support for Garcia by saying, “C’mon, baby," court records state.
Her trial is scheduled to begin in February.