Tip of the Hat: The 2016 murder of David Grunwald was not the first time that Alaska teens were responsible for the inexplicable murder of an erstwhile friend. James Voss recently shared a two decades old tale involving four different teens. That case is instructive, if only because of the sentences handed down after the teens were found guilty.
In September 1995, four teens lingered for hours outside the Villa Nova restaurant, waiting for 17-year-old Allen Boulch to get off work.
Villa Nova Ristorante, Anchorage
They lured the young Mormon (LDS) teen, who was working as a chef at the Villa Nova, to Kincaid Park on the pretext of drinking, smoking marijuana and shooting targets (two of which were forbidden by his religion). But Philip Chad Wilson, the mastermind who’d talked for days about killing Boulch for allegedly burglarizing his family’s home, had other ideas. He emptied his gun into Allen Boulch, then directed another teen to shoot him with a sawed-off shotgun, mere inches from the victim’s face. A third teen fired into Boulch after that.
Kincaid Park (south of Ted Stevens International Airport, Anchorage)
Only one of them, Ryan Chernikoff, didn’t join in the violence. But when the teens took $157 from Boulch’s wallet, Chernikoff accepted $20 from their dirty haul. It was Chernikoff who went to the police and told investigators what he and the others had done.
A little more than two weeks later, all four were charged with first degree murder, armed robbery and conspiracy. Three of them immediately entered not-guilty pleas; Philip Wilson ultimately claimed that he meant to shoot at a beer can but, on impulse, shot Boulch instead. The fourth defendent’s arraignment was delayed because his attorney was not immediately available.
Six months later, the first log broke from the dam. In exchange for dropping charges of murder and conspiracy, Ryan Chernikoff agreed to testify against his co-defendants. A week later, Willie Moore also agreed to testify against the remaining two defendants; Moore claimed he took the last shot because he was afraid the others would kill him. Moore also told police that Wilson wanted to kill again.
“Afterward, he [Wilson] said it felt good to kill Allen,” Moore revealed to police. “He thinks it’s an addiction, like pot.”
Wilson’s attorney called that “just teenage bravado.” Judge Karl Johnstone wasn’t having any of it.
He sentenced Philip Chad Wilson to 99 years. Alex Pappas got 65 years for wielding the shotgun. Willie Moore, who testified against Wilson and Pappas, got 55 years. Ryan Chernikoff accepted a plea bargain, was convicted of second-degree robbery, and sentenced to four years.
The four were among the first in Alaska to be prosecuted for murder under a 1994 law that established that 16- and 17-year olds charged with serious crimes can be treated as adults. That same law was applied to Erick Almandinger and his co-defendants. It’s deja vu all over again.