Meagan Grunwald could have spent the rest of her life in prison, and she wasn’t supposed to get even the chance to walk free for at least 27 years for her role in a crime spree that killed one police officer and wounded another.
But, on Monday, Grunwald received a new sentence, after she won an appeal from the Utah Supreme Court. This time, she was sentenced to no more than 30 years behind bars.
It was a significant reduction made after the state’s high court decided a jury improperly convicted her of first-degree felony aggravated murder in the death of Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Cory Wride.
To avoid a new trial, Grunwald, now 24, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree felony manslaughter in Wride’s death and second-degree felony aggravated assault on a peace officer in connection with another officer who was shot and injured. She admitted in plea documents that she was “reckless as to whether her aid” would result in the officers’ injuries.
Prosecutors never accused Grunwald of firing at the officers. She was 17 years old on Jan. 30, 2014, when she drove her truck through two counties as her boyfriend, Jose Angel Garcia-Jauregui, 27, fired a gun at police officers and other motorists.
Wride was killed that day, and Deputy Greg Sherwood was wounded. Garcia-Jauregui was fatally wounded later that day during a shootout with officers in Nephi.
On Monday, a judge sentenced Grunwald to back-to-back one-to-15 years sentences. It will be up to the Utah Parole Board to decide how long she ultimately spends behind bars. She has been incarcerated for the past seven years, since the day of the shooting.
Grunwald’s attorney told the judge Monday that his client was remorseful, and that Wride’s family had accepted that apology, according to FOX 13.
“While we have extended the hand of forgiveness, we have not forgotten,” Wride’s widow, Nannette said, FOX 13 reported.
A jury found Grunwald guilty of aggravated murder and 10 other crimes in a 2015 trial.
The Utah Supreme Court ruled last February that there were mistakes on the instructions given to jurors about Grunwald’s potential criminal liability as an accomplice to her boyfriend. Utah law allows accomplices to be charged and held equally accountable for crimes, even if they are committed by another person.
The high court found it was “reasonably probable” that a jury would not have convicted her of aggravated murder and other crimes if they had been given proper instructions about accomplice liability.
Grunwald and Garcia-Jauregui were on the side of the road in Utah County on the day of the shooting when Wride pulled up to see if they needed help. Wanted on an outstanding warrant, Garcia-Jauregui gave the 44-year-old officer a false name and then shot through Wride’s windshield and killed him as the officer sat in his vehicle checking their licenses.
At trial, Grunwald testified that Garcia-Jauregui threatened to kill her and her family if she didn’t do as he said.
But prosecutors argued Grunwald was a willing participant in Wride’s death. They used police dashboard-camera recordings and witness testimony as evidence to counter Grunwald’s claims that she was threatened to act as her boyfriend’s getaway driver.