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Attorney: Boyfriend forced Utah girl to flee after cop was killed

Published April 17, 2014 10:51 pm

Courts • Grunwald will testify she could "comply or give up her own life," defense attorney says.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Provo • If her case goes to trial, 17-year-old Meagan Dakota Grunwald will testify in her own defense that she was forced by her boyfriend to drive her truck during a high-speed manhunt while the boyfriend shot at police, her attorney said Thursday.

No one has heard Grunwald's story, defense attorney Dean Zabriskie told reporters Thursday, just moments after the girl was ordered to stand trial on 12 charges related to the murder of one police officer, and the shooting and wounding of another.

Zabriskie claims Grunwald is a victim who will testify that her boyfriend, 27-year-old Jose Angel Garcia-Jauregui, forced her to run from police.

"Her choices were reduced to either comply or give up her own life," Zabriskie said.

Grunwald is charged as an adult with aggravated murder for the Jan. 30 death of Utah County sheriff's Sgt. Cory Wride on a road near Lehi, and attempted aggravated murder for the wounding of Utah County sheriff's Deputy Greg Sherwood in Santaquin.

Authorities have alleged Grunwald, of Draper, was an active participant in the crimes, although her boyfriend — who was fatally wounded by police — is believed to be the shooter.

After two days of watching hours of dash-cam footage, looking at photos, and hearing testimony from law enforcement officers and others who became entangled in the crime spree, 4th District Judge Darold McDade ruled Thursday there was probable cause for Grunwald to stand trial on all 12 charges.

That ruling was a "relief" to Wride's family, brother-in-law Johnny Revill said.

"We're confident, as a family, that justice will be served," he said.

Zabriskie said he had d expected the teen would be bound over for trial, but when asked how his client was doing, he said Grunwald "was traumatized."

The teen will be back in court on May 12 for an arraignment.

Grunwald's hearing began Wednesday with prosecutors playing dash-cam video from Wride's vehicle — footage that documents the last moments of Wride's life.

Events began in Utah County at about 1 p.m. on Jan. 30, when Wride stopped his patrol car on State Road 73 about 5 miles west of Lehi to check on a Toyota Tundra pickup truck that was stopped on the shoulder.

Wride was sitting in his patrol car checking information given to him by Grunwald, who was allegedly driving, and Garcia-Jauregui, when the man allegedly opened the back sliding window of the truck and began shooting at the officer.

Seven shots were fired toward Wride, Sgt. Scott Finch, with the Utah County Attorney's Office Bureau of Investigations, testified Wednesday. The first two struck the windshield, and killed Wride.

The pickup driver then drove away, setting off a manhunt that turned into a two-county high-speed chase which would leave another officer injured, multiple cars damaged and the gunman fatally wounded.

Police believe the girl was still at the wheel when she and Garcia-Jauregui encountered Sherwood in Santaquin more than an hour after Wride was killed.

Dash-cam video from Sherwood's patrol vehicle shows he caught up to the pickup truck as it was going west on the town's Main Street.

Sirens are heard blaring on the dash-cam audio as the pickup truck suddenly slows down — closing distance between the truck and Sherwood's vehicle — and a pop can be heard. Sherwood's car then stops.

Moments later, Sherwood informed dispatchers he had been shot through the windshield.

A photo of Sherwood's vehicle shown in court shows that one bullet hole hit the windshield, and another struck the hood before ricocheting into the windshield.

Finch said the ricocheting bullet struck Sherwood, who underwent two surgeries, one to remove a bullet fragment lodged between his brain and skull.

After Sherwood was shot, the police chase continued south on Interstate 15, where the truck's tires were spiked. The suspects commandeered another vehicle at gunpoint, but that vehicle also was disabled by tire spikes south of Nephi, where Juab County sheriff's deputies arrested the pair after shooting and wounding Garcia-Jauregui during an exchange of gunfire, according to court documents. Garcia-Jauregui died the next day at a hospital.

During testimony Thursday, prosecutors introduced evidence of phone records showing that Grunwald called her mother during the chase. Prosecutors pointed out that neither Grunwald nor her mother called 911.

Evidence also showed that Grunwald's blood tested positive for methamphetamine on the day of the shootings, and that police later served a search warrant at Grunwald's Draper home and found methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in the teen's room.

Grunwald, who is being held at the Salt Lake County jail, faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole if convicted of aggravated murder. Because she is a minor, she is not eligible for the death penalty.

Along with aggravated murder, Grunwald is charged with two counts of attempted aggravated murder, three counts of felony discharge of a firearm, two counts of criminal mischief, aggravated robbery, failure to respond to an officer, possession or use of a controlled substance and violation of operator duties after an accident.

According to charging documents, Grunwald and Garcia-Jauregui had been living together for several months at the teen's mother's home in Draper. The couple planned to wed when Grunwald turned 18 in August.

The girl's grandmother, Renate Grunwald, has told The Salt Lake Tribune that her granddaughter met Garcia-Jauregui six months before the fatal shooting. Both were working at a meat packaging plant in Draper.

Renate Grunwald said when Garcia-Jauregui moved into Grunwald's home, it set off a conflict between her parents, Jerry Grunwald and Tori Grunwald.

Jerry — who is Renate's son — wanted Garcia-Jauregui out of the house but, according to Renate, Tori wanted to let him stay.

Garcia-Jauregui was paroled in December 2012 from the Utah State Prison after serving five years of a one-to-15-year sentence for 2008 convictions for attempted murder and aggravated assault.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller