He pled guilty to manslaughter
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge handed down the maximum sentence of 14 years in prison to Erik Grumpelt, convicted of killing his girlfriend, Malinda Raya, in May of 2011 and keeping her decomposing corpse in his Mesa apartment for two months.
Under the terms of his plea agreement, Grumpelt could have been sentenced to anywhere from 7 to 14 years. After a couple hours' worth of comments to the judge from Raya's family and friends, Grumpelt's family, and Grumpelt himself, the judge said the aggravating factors in the case outweighted any mitigating factors, leading him to impose the maximum sentence.
According to Grumpelt and his family, he was an ideal citizen, holding down a good job for several years. He had known Raya for 16 years when they started dating after both had gotten divorced from their previous spouses.
However, by then, both Grumpelt and Raya had gotten involved in drugs. Grumpelt said he should have put his efforts into his recovery rather than his relationship.
"When we got together, we were two broken people," Grumpelt told the judge. "Losing my job and custody of my son turned my world into a downward spiral and a deep, dark depression. And I made the absolute worst choice by deciding to go back to using meth to ease the pain."
Raya's mother in law, Colleen Firestine, who was the grandmother of Raya's two children, ended up raising them. She read a prepared statement to the judge for more than 30 minutes. She talked about how the kids had lost their mother when they were only 4 and 6 years old.
"We'd send up helium balloons with little Post-Its on them, watching them go up to the sky. I'd tell them... in the morning, mommy will have the message in heaven," she said.
Firestine added that the children were too young to explain what happened, and they continued to make messages and pictures for her, especially on special occasions such as Mother's Day. She read one of the cards made by Raya's daughter: "Dear Mommy, I miss you (and here are a number of hearts indicating how much she loves her). Happy Mother's Day. I'm glad you're my mommy."
Firestine told the judge that it was painful when Raya disappeared without a clue: "Little did I know at the time that my dear Malinda was lying dead on the bedroom floor of his apartment, where he had stuffed the body under the bed, wrapped in sheets, and sprinkled her with laundry detergent and carpet deodorizer" to cover up the smell.
Grumpelt told the judge that in his drug-induced haze, he was scared about what had happened and "I didn't want to live."
Now, he says, he wants to "help other addicts" – both in prison and by becoming a substance abuse counselor after he serves his sentence.