A jury found a Utah teenager guilty Saturday in a 50-mile crime spree that left one sheriff’s deputy dead and another wounded.
Meagan Grunwald, 18, was desperately in love with her much older boyfriend and would do anything to stay with him, including driving a speeding getaway car in the three-county chase, prosecutors say. The teenager tearfully told a jury she was too afraid to stop driving when the man she loved turned the gun on her and threatened to kill her family.
The Provo jury of six women and two men began deliberating Friday afternoon. They returned with a verdict around 12:35 a.m., said court spokeswoman Nancy Volmer.
Grunwald faces up to life in prison when she is sentenced July 18 in the January 2014 chase that also included a carjacking. Her boyfriend, 27-year-old Jose Angel Garcia-Jauregui, was killed in a shootout with police. Grunwald is ineligible for the death penalty because she was 17 when it happened.
Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Cory Wride was killed.
Wride’s 25-year-old son, Shea Wride, said he woke up Saturday morning after an overnight flight to Orlando and was “overwhelmed” to learn of the verdict after logging onto Facebook.
“It was the best possible news to wake up to,” he told The Associated Press. He said his family has been waiting months for this result and he’s relieved that Grunwald will finally be held accountable.
The two-week trial included testimony from a deputy shot in the head during the chase and a woman who pulled her child out of her car as it was stolen at gunpoint. Grunwald took the stand in her own defense, telling the jury that being in the car with Garcia-Jauregui was like looking at a devil.
But prosecutors sharply questioned her testimony, saying her story was rife with inconsistency and the only person who could refute it is dead.
The crime spree started after Wride happened upon the couple’s pickup pulled over to the side of the road on a snowy day. Garcia-Jauregui gave the deputy a fake name because he had a warrant out for his arrest. When Wride grew suspicious, Garcia-Jauregui stuck a gun out the truck’s window and shot him.
Grunwald drove away behind the wheel of the pickup, and prosecutors say that when another deputy caught up with them, she hit the brakes to close the distance between their vehicles so Garcia-Jauregui had a better shot when he fired again. Utah County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Sherwood was hit in the head and survived.
“No obstacle is going to stop her from being with her man,” prosecutor Sam Pead said during closing arguments Friday.
But Grunwald’s lawyer denied that, saying she was a scared girl who had trusted a much older, manipulative man. When Garcia-Jauregui threatened her, she went on autopilot as she sped the pickup through three counties with a gun to her head, said attorney Dean Zabriskie.
“She is scared to death,” he said.
Grunwald was charged with a dozen counts, including aggravated murder, attempted murder, aggravated robbery and use of a controlled substance. She was found not guilty on one count, attempted aggravated murder.