Meagan Grunwald wishes she had run away.
Her 27-year-old boyfriend, upset that she was going to move away to southern Utah, fired two shots out of the car window seven years ago before killing a sheriff’s sergeant who stopped to check on them and later shooting and wounding a deputy.
Grunwald, then 17 years old, was at the wheel, complying with his orders to keep driving. Getting out of the car on Jan. 30, 2017, would have been the right decision, she said Monday over a video feed from the Utah State Prison to Provo’s 4th District Court.
“But I was scared,” she recalled. “I just didn’t know what would happen.”
Grunwald, 24, said she takes responsibility for her role in the death of Utah County Sheriff’s Sgt. Corey Wride and for deputy Greg Sherwood’s lasting injuries. She has served about seven years of what began as a 30-year prison sentence. But that sentence was shortened significantly Monday after the Utah Supreme Court overturned her murder conviction.
Grunwald was found liable by a jury in 2015 as an accomplice to the crimes of her boyfriend, but the justices threw out the murder conviction last year in part because faulty jury instructions permitted a guilty verdict based on reckless actions. In Utah, the offense requires a higher standard of knowing and intentional behavior.
Grunwald took a plea deal instead of opting for a new trial, admitting to lesser charges of manslaughter and aggravated assault on a peace officer, both second-degree felonies.
Fourth District Judge Darold McDade sentenced her Monday to consecutive terms of one to 15 years in prison on each charge. The exact time she will serve will be up to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, but prosecutors expect her to serve about five more years in prison.
Grunwald said a combination of therapy, college coursework on the impacts of crime, and a job helping to train service dogs have helped her find purpose and reflect on how her actions affected Wride’s and Sherwood’s families.
“All I can do is try to become a better person and become a good citizen,” she said.
Grunwald admitted last month that she helped her boyfriend, Angel Garcia-Juaregui, by putting their car in drive, placing her foot on the brake and watching traffic while he crawled toward the rear window with a gun and fired, killing Wride, court documents say. A short time later, she slowed down when Sherwood was just behind the car, and Garcia-Juaregui fired again, striking Sherwood in the head and causing life-threatening and permanent injuries.
Garcia-Juaregui was shot and killed in an exchange of gunfire with police.
Her attorney, Matthew Morrise, said his client wishes she had been brave enough to try to stop him and would like to advocate with Wride’s widow, Nanette Wride, for bulletproof windows on all police cars.
Nanette Wride said her primary concern is that Grunwald continues to make progress before she’s released.
She forgives Grunwald, but said, “Our family is still shattered.”
Kylie Wride, 21, said she can’t bear to throw out the clothes she was wearing the day her father was killed and still recalls the hysterical phone call she received from her mother.
Her father has missed milestones ranging from her high school graduation to her wedding.
“No one understands me like he would have,” she said Monday of her father, “and I’m left to navigate my life without him.”
Kathy Wride described the frustration and the emotional toll of years spent pursuing justice in the legal system only to have the murder conviction overturned.
“Had she not been a willing participant, our son would still be alive today,” she said of Grunwald. “She still feels like she’s the victim in all of this.”
Just before reading Grunwald’s sentence, McDade said he’s at fault for the mistakes that overturned the conviction.
“I want you to know that I’m going to take responsibility for that,” he said, adding that the case will stick with him for years to come.
Deputy Utah County attorney Tim Taylor said Monday his office offered the plea bargain after consulting Wride’s family. The manslaughter charge fits the legal standard of recklessness that the justices concluded may have been the basis for the now-tossed murder conviction, Taylor said.
Grunwald has remained in prison on a remaining conviction of aggravated robbery tied to the car chase. It carries a prison term of at least five years and up to life behind bars.