Teen pleads not guilty in Utah sergeant murder case

PROVO, Utah — A teenage girl pleaded not guilty on Monday to nearly a dozen charges from a crime rampage that left a Utah County sheriff’s sergeant dead.

Meagan Grunwald, 17, spoke quietly in a Provo courtroom Monday as she entered her pleas against charges of murder, attempted murder and other counts. Grunwald, who is being charged as an adult, appeared with her wrists handcuffed at her waist and wore a navy blue jail jumpsuit.

The teenager is the only surviving suspect from the Jan. 30 police chase and shootout.

Her attorney, Dean Zabriskie, told reporters after the arraignment that Grunwald plans to take the stand in her own defense at trial and will testify that her 27-year-old boyfriend forced her at gunpoint to participate in the crime rampage.

Prosecutors say Angel Garcia-Juaregui is the one who shot Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Cory Wride and another deputy. But they argue Grunwald drove the couple during the chase in a pickup truck registered to the teenager and her mother.

Investigators also have said Grunwald participated in the crimes, including a carjacking.

Garcia-Juaregui, a fugitive, died from injuries he sustained in a shootout with police shortly before law enforcement arrested the pair.

During the crime spree, Grunwald was intimidated, coerced and “scared to death,” Zabriskie said.

“We mourn, as the whole community does, for this dead police officer, and the other one that was horribly injured,” Zabriskie said. “But we just don’t see that our client is responsible for that and we think the evidence will prove that.”

Chief Deputy Utah County Attorney Tim Taylor said after court Monday that his office has not discussed the possibility of a plea deal with the teenager’s attorneys, who are reviewing thousands of documents of evidence that prosecutors have shared.

“We obviously know that she was there. We know that she participated,” he said. “But should there be some sort of plea offer in that case, that’s something we’re going to be looking at.”

Grunwald’s relatively young age is something they’ll consider when making a decision about a plea deal, Taylor said.

“She’s a young girl. But we know that young people can still do horrific crimes,” he said.

Taylor said if prosecutors consider a plea deal, they will discuss it with Wride’s family first.

At a two-day hearing in April, prosecutors played dash-cam videos from about half a dozen officers involved in the pursuit along snowy highways in central Utah.

Prosecutors with the Utah County Attorney’s Office also presented telephone records that showed Grunwald called her mother during the chase, but neither the teenager nor her mother called 911.

Grunwald is facing charges under Utah laws that make participating in and assisting with a crime nearly as serious as committing it.

Besides murder and attempted murder, Grunwald is charged with obstructing justice, aggravated robbery and use of a controlled substance. The teenager tested positive for methamphetamine after the chase, court records show.

A day before the chase, an arrest warrant had been issued for Garcia-Juaregui that alleged violations of his parole conditions. He was paroled from a Utah prison in December 2012 after serving 4 1/2 years for attempted homicide.

Grunwald could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted. She is ineligible for the death penalty because she is under 18.

A trial will be scheduled at a June 2 hearing. Attorneys say they expect the trial will take about three weeks and will be scheduled for late summer or early fall of this year.

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