Murder on Knik River Rd: Next Shoe Drops

The next shoe has dropped.

In June and July of this year, I wrote extensively about the murder of Palmer teen David Grunwald. Thanks to my friends at KTVA Anchorage, I was also able to follow — and comment upon — the arrest and trial of Erick Almandinger, the first of four teens accused in Grunwald’s murder. The trial of a second accused teen, Dominic Johnson, started in November 2018. In less than a month at trial, his jury reached a verdict.

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On December 27, 2018, Dominic Johnson was found guilty of first degree murder. The jury also found him guilty of kidnapping, arson, assault, vehicle theft and destroying evidence. All in all, quite a shoe drop.

In its broadest strokes, the trial was reminiscent of Erick Almandinger’s trial. The basic fact pattern remained consistent. That said, there were at least two new revelations. Another two shoes, as it were.

The first new shoe was that Dominic Johnson got himself a jailhouse tattoo. In “before” and “after” photos captured by KTVA-Anchorage, they show the tattoo of a pistol on Johnson’s right hand during his October jury selection process. A tattoo that was not present during Johnson’s August 14-15 evidentiary hearing.

Excuse me while I say, WTF?

Yeah, I know he is young. And stupid. But, to me at least, that tattoo says, “Yes, I was the shooter.” No, wait. I got that wrong. It says: YES, I WAS THE SHOOTER.

And, yeah, I’m not the intended audience. That audience is Johnson’s fellow inmates. I trust that they’ll have plenty of time to get acquainted.

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Before: August Evidenciary Hearing (courtesy KTVA)

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After: October Jury Selection (close-up; courtesy KTVA)

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Dominic Johnson conceals his tattoo (courtesy KTVA)

THE SECOND big revelation was really a confirmation of what troopers suspected during Erick Almandinger’s trial: that there was video evidence of Dominic Johnson bragging about beating David Grunwald in the hours before Grunwald’s murder.

Here’s how the judge summarized that video during Johnson’s trial: “Judge Gregory Heath read a transcript of the video: “First of all it’s an indiscernible line. Then [it] goes ‘As hard as I can, in the head just to try to hurt him, just to try to fucking hurt him.'”

Not only was that evidence miraculously found but it formed a series of revelations that Dominic’s mother, Misty Johnson, knew way more about her son’s involvement in David Grunwald’s murder than she let on during the first trial. Here’s a series of messages discussing the video:

Misty: There's something else that has surfaced that's VERY VERY 
VERYBAD!!!!!!! idk if the cops have it or not if they do they r 
definitely waiting til trial to bring it out.

[Misty's friend]: Oh god what else

Misty: I'll have to tell u in person or have Andrea show u. If 
they have it he will 100% get life. And if I were on the jury 
id actually be in favor of it even after seeing that little 
piece of the puzzle.

Misty Johnson also talked about wanting to get one of Dominic’s sweatshirts. She sent a message to “Johnson” on Dec. 11, 2016 that read:

Me too. I slept in his bed the night they took him. It was hard but 
i needed to feel close to him. Does he have any hoodies there? We 
had to "get rid of" his American Eagle one he wore all the time cuz 
it was....on him. Ya know...during....

She later replied:

It'd be weird for me to have that hoodie tho knowing what happened 
in it and knowing where the blood was on it. But I've always loved 
his hoodies and I gave Sammy back the one I gave dom of his. Now 
there's none.

You can’t make this stuff up.


Purchase Butcher, Baker

Order my latest book, “What Happened In Craig,” HERE and HERE, true crime on Epicenter Press about Alaska’s Worst Unsolved Mass Murder.

Craig

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