PROVO — Meagan Grunwald hung her head and wept, reaching shackled hands to wipe away tears, as family members Wednesday recounted the love and kindness of the sheriff's deputy she is convicted of killing.
But as the deputy's widow spoke, she also addressed the teenage getaway driver about her role in her husband's death.
"You are forgiven, sweet girl. I hope that one day you can forgive yourself," Nanette Wride said through tears, speaking before the 18-year-old woman's sentence for aggravated murder was handed down.
As Wride returned to her seat, Grunwald raised her head, meeting the woman's gaze and soft smile. It was in that moment, as their eyes met, that Wride said she first saw remorse.
"I looked at her square in the eyes, and I could see it, I could see that she was truly sorry," Wride said later. "I could see the weight lifted because she was wanting us to forgive her. I think the biggest thing is going to be her forgiving herself now."
Grunwald was ordered Wednesday to spend at least 30 years and up to life in prison, including sentences of 25 years to life for aggravated murder and a consecutive sentence of five years to life for aggravated robbery. Sentences for the remaining nine charges against her will be served consecutively.
"You are a victim, but I don't believe you are a victim in the way you look at it," 4th District Judge Darold McDade told Grunwald, adding that he recognized the vulnerabilities that her dysfunctional upbringing left her with. "You contributed to the death of a very good man."
Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Cory Wride was shot and killed Jan. 30, 2014, as he sat in his patrol car in Eagle Mountain, having stopped to check on Grunwald as she and her older boyfriend, Jose Angel Garcia-Juragui, were parked off the side of the road during a snowstorm. Along the way, Garcia also shot and critically wounded deputy Greg Sherwood, fired upon other officers and bystanders, and carjacked a second vehicle.
Grunwald, who was 17 when she got behind the wheel with Garcia at her side, took the stand in her own defense during the nine-day trial, testifying that she didn't know Garcia had a gun and that the older man ordered her to drive, threatening to kill her and her family if she didn't comply.
Garcia, 27, was ultimately killed in a shootout with officers outside Nephi, reportedly asking officers, "Let me kiss my girlfriend with my dying breath," before he was taken from the scene. Witnesses recounted seeing Grunwald, distraught, shouting and cursing officers after they shot Garcia.
Grunwald was found guilty in May of 11 charges stemming from the crime spree through Utah and Juab counties with Garcia. Though Grunwald never pulled the trigger, a jury found she was equally responsible for the shots the man fired as she drove during the chase.
You are a victim, but I don't believe you are a victim in the way you look at it.
–4th District Judge Darold McDade
Chance of parole
The judge's decision, which could have been a life sentence without the possibility of parole, echoed requests from members of the Wride family who spoke Wednesday, all asking that the young woman not be given the maximum sentence so that she may someday have the chance to build a productive and positive life.
It's a choice the family has wrestled with over the past year, Nanette Wride said, and even as the decision was handed down Wednesday, not everyone was at peace with it.
"There were a lot of mixed feelings, a lot of going back and forth, even going up until today," Wride said after court adjourned.
Sherwood, who also addressed the judge Wednesday, did not indicate whether he believed Grunwald should be given a chance at parole, asking only that the decision be fair and hopefully allow his family to find closure.
Forgiving Grunwald has taken time for Wride, as well, who throughout the trial called for justice and said she didn't believe the young woman's story. As she addressed McDade on Wednesday, the widow also highlighted the gaping hole that Grunwald's actions tore in their family, forever robbing them of peace, security and a lifetime of experiences together.
Moving forward, Wride says she is committed to attending Grunwald's future parole hearings.
"I'm going to be rooting for her to be something better," she said. "She's just a young kid. She's going to be in her 40s by the time she gets out, if she gets out. I want her to be able to live a life."
Both Wride and Sherwood emphasized in court that the two officers whom Grunwald met that day would have helped her if she had only approached them. Instead, she chose to stay with her boyfriend.
"I would have given all my energy protecting her," Sherwood said, adding that she instead played a pivotal role in the crime spree.
"What Garcia did would have been impossible without the assistance of Meagan, especially shooting with precision out the window," he said.
I'm going to be rooting for her to be something better. She's just a young kid. She's going to be in her 40s by the time she gets out, if she gets out. I want her to be able to live a life.
–Nanette Wride, widow of deceased officer
Sherwood described the excruciating pain of being shot that day, as well as the overwhelming frustration that Cory Wride's killers had escaped him. Speaking quietly and slowly, Sherwood, who calls himself a private man, also detailed the ongoing mental, physical and emotional effects of the bullet that caught him in the side of the head, shattering into his skull.
"Something as simple as talking or smiling causes me pain," he told the judge. "My active lifestyle became inactive, lying around the house with earplugs in my ears and an icepack on my face."
Sherwood said he has not been able to put his uniform back on since the shooting, and may not ever be able to fully return to police work.
Savior and devil
Ironically, Grunwald called Wride her "savior" Wednesday. Of Garcia, her boyfriend, Grunwald said she had believed him to be a kind person and instead found him to be "the devil."
"This experience changed my life. I will always wonder if I could have stopped him," the now-18-year-old said as she read a small, simple statement that she had prepared.
"I think Sgt. Wride saved my life."
Grunwald apologized for her role in taking the life of "the community's hero," adding, "It was difficult to ask for forgiveness when I have a hard time forgiving myself."
Grunwald's parents, deeply emotional, did not comment as they hurried from the courtroom. Only her father, Jerry Grunwald, was allowed to address the judge on his daughter's behalf.
"Help Meagan grow and learn to deal with this, to get counseling so she can move on in her life," the weeping father said, asking the judge for leniency.
Dean Zabriskie, Grunwald's attorney, highlighted the woman's young age and the rarity that she ultimately faced the charges against her as an adult. He reiterated Grunwald's defense that she was a person of simple means and mentality, raised in poverty as the only child of two disabled parents and with learning disabilities of her own, who found herself in the clutches of a dangerous older man who initially said he loved her.
Grunwald has been a well-behaved and uncomplaining prisoner since her arrest, Zabriskie said, involving herself in a number of programs. She is also being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder as well as debilitating nightmares, products of her experience during the violent crime spree.
"She told me she sees in her dreams, every night, Sgt. Wride's face," Zabriskie said.
Contributing: Sam Penrod