PROVO (AP) — A young woman convicted in a 50-mile crime spree that left one Utah sheriff’s deputy dead and another wounded was sentenced Wednesday to 30 years to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
State Judge Darold McDade handed down 18-year-old Meagan Grunwald’s term following emotional testimony about the January 2014 chase from the injured lawman.
Utah County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Sherwood told the judge that after he was shot in the head and fighting for his life in his police cruiser, Grunwald drove past him without stopping to help.
“She could have ran towards me, and I would have protected her with all my energy,” he said. “Instead, she made the choice to run.”
Grunwald cried during the hearing as she read quickly from a brief written statement.
“It’s hard for me to ask for forgiveness when I have a hard time forgiving myself,” she said.
Grunwald will get credit for the year and half she already has served behind bars in jail. At the earliest, she could be released in 2044, when she’s 47 years old.
Prosecutors said Grunwald was a willing accomplice ready to do anything to stay with her 27-year-old boyfriend, including driving a speeding getaway car in the three-county chase.
During her trial, the teenager tearfully told a jury she was afraid to stop driving when the man she loved turned the gun on her and threatened to kill her family.
The boyfriend, Jose Angel Garcia-Jauregui, was killed in a shootout with police.
Grunwald was convicted in May of 11 counts, including aggravated murder, attempted murder, aggravated robbery and use of a controlled substance. She was found not guilty on one count of attempted aggravated murder.
The maximum penalty Grunwald could have faced was life in prison without parole. She was ineligible for the death penalty because she was 17 when it happened.
She was charged and convicted under Utah laws that allow an accomplice to be considered equally responsible for a crime.
Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Cory Wride, 44, was killed during the crime spree.
Wride’s widow, Nannette, said his family wanted Grunwald to have a chance at parole because she’s young and might make something of herself.
“I’m going to be rooting for her to be someone better,” Nannette Wride told reporters.
Before Grunwald was sentenced, Wride addressed the crying teenager in court.
“You are forgiven, and I hope, sweet girl, that one day you can forgive yourself,” Wride said as Grunwald put her head down and sobbed.
The shootout and chase came after Cory Wride happened upon the couple’s pickup on the side of a road. Garcia-Jauregui had a warrant out for his arrest and gave the deputy a fake name. When Wride grew suspicious, Garcia-Jauregui stuck a gun out the truck’s rear window and shot the deputy as he sat in his police cruiser.
Grunwald’s lawyer said she was a scared girl who trusted an older, manipulative man. Attorney Dean Zabriskie said as the couple fled from police through three central Utah counties, Grunwald was driving with a gun to her head.
Zabriskie said Wednesday that Grunwald survived her time in the truck because Wride stopped to help her, and she considers him her savior.
“Now she wishes she would have done something,” he said. “She wishes she would have done something, even at the risk of her life.”
Zabriskie said Grunwald plans to appeal her conviction.
Story by Michelle L. Price, Associated Press
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