MESA, AZ — Seven years after Grant Ronnebeck's murder, his dad blames the Maricopa County Attorney's Office for what he sees as unnecessary delays and missteps in the high-profile case.
Grant, 21, was murdered at a Mesa Quick Trip in 2015. He was the clerk and was shot over at a pack of cigarettes.
"That kid's smile is amazing, and I miss it every day," Grant's dad, Steve Ronnebeck, told ABC15 Thursday.
The murder suspect, Apolinar Altamirano, is an undocumented immigrant who had been previously deported.
Grant's murder garnered national attention when Steve became one of former President Trump's "Angel Families." Steve traveled across the country and pressed for immigration policy changes and a better border wall in an effort to keep criminal immigrants out of the country.
Early in the murder case, Steve said he supported seeking the death penalty against Altamirano, but that changed as the case progressed.
Defense attorneys argued Altamirano could not be executed because he is intellectually disabled. MCAO disagreed and appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court multiple times.
When Altamirano's defense team made an offer for him to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison without parole, Steve said his family supported it because it would have guaranteed Altamirano never returned to the streets.
"I said, 'Please take the plea deal,'" Steve said. "I was told my opinion was appreciated, but that the Maricopa County attorneys were going to follow the path that they felt best."
"MCAO has spent seven years prolonging the agony of the Ronnenbeck family — not to mention spending countless hours of taxpayer-funded judicial, attorney and expert witness time — by attempting to win the right to try and kill Mr. Altamirano in violation of the U.S. Constitution," said Greg Kuykendall, one Altamirano's lawyers.
The Arizona Supreme Court made its final ruling in August that Altamirano is ineligible for the death penalty. Ronnebeck said he tried to call Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel about the future of the case, but she was not responsive.
"Why doesn't the victim have any rights as far as this is concerned?" Steve said. "It's time. Give my family justice. Give my family peace. We need to close the chapter."
MCAO responded to ABC15's questions about Steve Ronnebeck's concerns by issuing this statement:
This is an on-going case so we are limited in the comments we can provide. However, this office has worked diligently to keep Mr. Ronnenbeck and his attorneys informed on the status of this case as we strive to seek justice for his loved one. Based on the decision of the Arizona Supreme Court, this office is no longer seeking the death penalty in this case.