The Utah County Attorney’s Office is preparing to oversee an aggravated murder case that garnered national attention after the Utah Supreme Court reversed the conviction late last week.
In 2015, Meagan Grunwald was found guilty of 11 charges, including a first-degree felony charge of aggravated murder, a first-degree felony charge of attempted aggravated murder and a first-degree felony charge of aggravated robbery. Weeks later, the freshly turned 18-year-old was sentenced to 30 years-to-life in prison.
Grunwald was 17 years old when her boyfriend, 27-year-old Angel Garcia-Juaregui, shot and killed Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Cory Wride in 2014. Although the teenage getaway driver did not fire a single shot, the jury found that she was equally responsible for the death.
According to court documents, Grunwald pulled her truck over on the side of the road after the couple started to fight. Wride had pulled up behind Grunwald’s truck to check on the stopped vehicle and had returned to his patrol vehicle to run the names Grunwald and Garcia-Juaregui gave him.
Grunwald told authorities Garcia-Juaregui told her to step on the brakes before he shot Wride in his parked patrol vehicle.
Grunwald was the driver of the truck that led police on a pursuit across Utah and Juah counties. During the incident, Garcia-Juaregui wounded Utah County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Sherwood, who was shot in the head. Sherwood survived, and Garcia-Juaregui later died in a shootout with police.
After Grunwald was convicted in 2015, the Utah Court of Appeals reversed her conviction for the attempted murder of Sherwood in 2018, citing improper jury instructions.
However, the court upheld the aggravated murder and aggravated robbery convictions at that time, stating that “the error was harmless” in these instances. Grunwald’s attorneys argued the jury’s improper instruction directed jurors to find her guilty even if they believe she acted recklessly.
In order for an aggravated murder conviction to reasonably fit her actions, Grunwald would have had to be reasonably certain of death. Grunwald testified she believed the glass on the patrol car was bulletproof at the time of Wride’s shooting but began to have doubts as the chase transpired.
Last Friday, the Utah Supreme Court reversed the conviction against now 23-year-old Grunwald.
“I am so angry, betrayed and just bawling my eyes out,” Nannette Wride-Zeeman, Wride’s widow, said in a statement posted to Facebook. “The Utah Supreme Court, after a year of waiting for a decision, has overturned Cory’s murder and so he gets no justice and that girl gets a new trial. No, I’m outraged. I’m numb. This can’t be happening. There is no justice, and this sets a dangerous precedent for cop killers.”
The Utah County Attorney’s Office released a statement detailing the prosecution’s sentiment while approaching the case that has gained national attention.
Utah County Attorney David Leavitt acknowledged the pain Wride-Zeeman and “the brotherhood that exists in law enforcement” are feeling with the news of the decision in an emailed statement.
“We respect the Supreme Court to mediate the facts of the case and assure the principles of the Constitution are applied equally and fairly to all,” he said.
Leavitt said that although he was not yet elected when the case began in 2014, he and his office understand the responsibility they have to review the facts and balance the rights of the accused and the victims as they determine the appropriate actions.
The Utah County Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing the opinion of the Utah Supreme Court, the investigation and the evidence provided by law enforcement. Once this screening process is complete, the seasoned attorneys will make a recommendation before Leavitt reviews the screening division’s findings before making a final decision, according to the statement.
“My decision will not be reactive,” Leavitt said. “It will not be pressured, or bullied, or based on emotion. We will do out part in this process our part in this process to address fairness, and balance the rights for the victims and the accused.”
Leavitt added that he intends to carry out this decision and others with “deliberate thoughtfulness” and “a reasoned approach.”
Wride-Zeeman called Leavitt on Monday morning to speak with him about the case. In a statement, she said she was treated poorly before being sent to voicemail.
“I was told ‘Mr. Leavitt’ had some bills at the Legislature that mean a lot to him and are his priority so they have to get back to me with availability,” Wride-Zeeman said. “Wouldn’t you think his whole office would be buzzing with Cory’s murder being overturned by the Utah Supreme Court? Wouldn’t you think they would be reaching out to me not me having to hunt them down?”
Wride-Zeeman is expected to meet with the Utah County Attorney’s Office on Tuesday.