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Relationship between Grunwald, shooter highlighted by promise ring, pregnancy talk

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Relationship between Grunwald, shooter highlighted by promise ring, pregnancy talk

By McKenzie Romero | Posted - May 5, 2015 at 8:28 p.m.


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PROVO — More witnesses outlined the relationship Tuesday between then-17-year-old Meagan Grunwald and her older boyfriend, illustrated through whispered conversations between friends and admonishment from adults to stop seeing each other.

Grunwald, now 18, faces aggravated murder, attempted aggravated murder and several other felony charges for allegedly driving the getaway vehicle as her boyfriend, 27-year-old Jose Angel Garcia-Juaregui, fired on police and bystanders.

Though it was Garcia who gunned down Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Cory Wride and gravely injured deputy Greg Sherwood, prosecutors say Grunwald was so deeply committed to the older man that she made no attempts to flee when she had a chance. Garcia was killed and Grunwald was arrested Jan. 30, 2014, following a shootout on I-15.

Grunwald's attorneys have said she, too, is a victim, who was threatened into accompanying Garcia on the violent, unplanned crime spree. Grunwald is expected to testify in the case, potentially taking the stand when the trial resumes Wednesday.

The findings of a forensic search of Grunwald's cellphone was presented to the eight-woman, two-man jury Tuesday, including a number of photos dating up to early December of the two smiling and embracing.

Included was a screenshot captured on Grunwald's phone of a Facebook post by Garcia and dedicated to the teenage girlfriend, stating, "Thank you babby girl and (thank) u god for putting her in my life." An affectionate text message from Grunwald advised that someone named Sadie wanted to attend their wedding.

The phone also revealed an Internet search of the possible effects of using meth before having surgery on wisdom teeth.

Rhome Zabriskie, Grunwald's attorney, emphasized during cross-examination that the photos were all taken in 2013 and did not illustrate what the couple's relationship may have been on the day they led police on a chase across two counties.

In school, Grunwald would whisper in class about her relationship with Garcia. She showed her friends, Anna and Rosa Smock, a promise ring from Garcia that she wore on her left ring finger. She also told them later she was concerned she was pregnant.

"She wanted to be with Angel and move to Mexico," Rosa Smock testified, adding that Grunwald had also told her that Garcia was 27 and had served time in prison.

"He almost killed a guy with a screwdriver," Rosa Smock had been told. Under cross-examination she added, "I didn't see him personally as a bad person, but there was just something off about him to me."

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Rosa Smock also testified that in a conversation in biology class, Grunwald had asked where to get "ice," or crystal meth. She was alarmed, she said, because she had never known Grunwald to use drugs.

Grunwald was still 16 when she was first introduced to Garcia. It was St. Patrick's Day, and she went looking for Kristin Allred, a woman in her LDS ward, to ask for help on her homework. Allred remembers the day, she testified, because she teased the teenager about not wearing anything green.

Instead, Garcia, who was living with the Allreds and had accompanied them to church that day, helped Grunwald. Over time, Allred wasn't sure exactly when a relationship developed. Allred learned of a promise ring that Garcia gave Grunwald and she began telling them to end things.

"I advised both of them very strongly and repeatedly to stay away from each other," Allred said.

The relationship continued, she said, and Garcia was given an ultimatum: Stop seeing the underage girl or move out.

That's when Garcia moved into the Grunwald home.

Like other family members, Grunwald's paternal grandmother, Renate Bolen, was subpoenaed to testify against her will. She was stern and abrupt as she answered questions about her granddaughter's relationship with the older man.

"Do you realize what you're doing?" Bolen said she had asked Grunwald when she learned that Garcia slept in her bedroom. "She said she wanted to be with him … and he makes so much money."

Despite a criminal past that was "nothing but trouble" and an alarming habit of always carrying a screwdriver, Bolen said Grunwald said she wanted to marry Garcia.

"Why would you want to be with someone like that?" Bolen had asked.

Grunwald's only reply was to tell her grandmother not to worry, reminding her that she still loved her.

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McKenzie Romero

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