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Grunwald takes plea deal in Utah Co. deputy's death, avoiding new trial

Photos: Meagan Grunwald testifies in her own defense in murder trial
Posted at 9:43 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 23:43:48-04

PROVO, Utah — A woman convicted as a teenager for her role in the murder of a Utah County Sheriff's deputy has taken a plea deal to reduced charges.

Meagan Grunwald pleaded guilty in 4th District Court earlier this month to second-degree felony charges of manslaughter and assault on a police officer, according to court records. The plea bargain with Utah County prosecutors avoids a new trial the Utah Supreme Court ordered in 2020 when it overturned her conviction on jury instruction errors.

Grunwald, then 17, was with her boyfriend, Jose Angel Garcia Juaregui, on the side of a road near Lehi when Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Cory Wride approached their vehicle. Juaregui shot and killed Sgt. Wride.

"He was like, 'Step your foot on the f---ing brake.' He reached over and put it in drive. I was like, 'What are you doing?'" she testified at her 2015 trial. "He points the gun at my head and says, 'If you don’t do what I tell you to do, I’m going to kill you and your f---ing family. And that look he gave me, I was looking at the devil."

Grunwald said she was forced to drive the vehicle on a multi-county chase where other police officers were shot at. Deputy Greg Sherwood was shot in the head and survived.

The chase ended with Juaregui’s death. Because Utah has no accomplice law, Grunwald was initially charged with murder. After a trial in 2015, Grunwald was convicted by a jury. But the state's top court overturned Grunwald's conviction in a four to one ruling. The Court declared that the instructions to the jury about accomplice liability law might have led to a different outcome.

"I was reckless as to whether my aid would result in the death of Sgt. Wride," Grunwald wrote in a statement submitted to the court with her plea.

Where she originally faced up to life in prison, Grunwald's new plea deal will likely result in reduced prison time. She is scheduled to be sentenced next month.