Murder on Knik River Rd: Delusions of Grandeur

Erick Almandinger’s “delusions of grandeur” conversation with Devin Peterson (Facebook Messenger, transcriptions of conversations shortly after the murder of David Grunwald, with Almandinger in purple text. Courtesy Alaska State Troopers)

Erick Almandinger figured he had it all worked out. His cover stories to Victoria and his father, Rodney, established that he was elsewhere when the Grunwald murder went down. As further proof, he had witnesses to the fact that he spent the night of November 13-14 at Alissa Bledsoe’s shed with his posse. Can’t be two places at once.

Yet, when Sgt. Tony Wegrzyn first contacted Erick on Wednesday, November 16th, the young Almandinger insisted he’d gone to a party in Anchorage on the evening of 13 November. It was at least consistent with what he’d told Victoria Mokelke. But Erick was fuzzy about the details, like the price of the cab ride and his exact destination in Anchorage. Those were things he should have known. Things that Wegrzyn could check up on.

How did you get there, Wegrzyn asked, knowing that Erick didn’t drive.
I took a cab.
Which cab company?
How much did it cost?
Around 60 or 120 dollars.
Where did you go in Anchorage?
Downtown somewhere.
Somewhere near… you know, the main part of Anchorage.

Just as incriminating, Erick had his Samsung tablet with him the entire time. Troopers would subpoena records from both his cell provider and Facebook. They found him in places he shouldn’t have been. The 16 yo genius was either too dumb or too arrogant to care. Maybe both.

Still, there was Erick’s naive identification with the Crips to hold reality at bay. In his fourth and decisive interview with Sgt. Wegrzyn — taken around 6:00 p.m. on December 2, 2016 — Almandinger claimed his friends “would take the fall for me if I did this. They would. I know that on everything I’ve ever believed in,” he said. They had a code of honor or something like that. You know, that gangster code of honor that homies accord each other.

Erick & friends flashing the Crips “C” sign

Sgt. Wegrzyn had to break it to him and, in the process, destroy Erick’s delusions of grandeur. His so-called, buddy-buddy friends had already pointed the finger at him. They weren’t about to take the fall for his stupidities. They were ready to confirm that Erick Almandinger was the trigger man. Yeah, you see, because to get into the Crips you have to kill somebody. Delusions of grandeur, Erick. Delusions of grandeur.

Erick Almandinger flashing the Crips “C” sign

This takes us to Devin Peterson, Erick’s proto-gangster idol. According to a sentencing memorandum released when Peterson pled guilty to hindering prosecution and evidence tampering in the Grunwald case, Devin fit the gangster role almost perfectly.

Devin Peterson in court for the Grunwald murder

Devin Peterson had spent half his life breaking the law.

“The defendant’s [Devin Peterson] first known criminal act occurred when he was only 11 years old. Since the age of 15, the defendant has been under near constant supervision as a result of his crimes. As a juvenile, the defendant engaged in multiple serious felonies, including violent crimes such as assault and burglary, as well as drug and property crimes. Of note, much of this conduct occurred while the defendant was under supervision, including the crime for which he has pled guilty. […] The defendant’s criminal history demonstrates a level of narcissism and a lack of compassion for others that is striking. Since becoming a teenager, the defendant has been engaged in a near constant state of criminal behavior. From a review of his criminal history and social media postings, it seems as if the defendant’s goals in life are to get high on a daily basis, take what he wants, and live a thug life.”

Devin did his best to live up to his image. When he lent Erick the gas cans he’d use to torch Grunwald’s Bronco, his gangster-self told Almandiger to “burn that bitch.”

But Peterson couldn’t force himself to complete the one thing he was tasked to do. When Wegrzyn questioned him early on December 2nd, Peterson said he’d received Almandinger’s pistols and taken them to another location. Armed with a search warrant, troopers found two semiautomatic pistols and another weapon — all of them loaded — in a black North Face backpack at Peterson’s home near Wasilla. Busted.

After the discovery, the cops confronted Devin Peterson. He confirmed that David Grunwald was killed by one of the guns in the backpack. Peterson added that Erick Almandinger admitted to killing David Grunwald and had given him the backpack for the purpose of ditching the guns. Game over.

Sources: Anchorage Daily News, KTVA-11, KTUU, Alaska Public Media, The Frontiersman

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