Erik Charles Grumpelt, age 48, of Chandler, has been sentenced to a term of 14 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections for recklessly causing the death of his girlfriend, Melinda Raya, in May of 2011. Grumpelt continued to live in his apartment with the victim’s decomposing corpse for more than two months before her death was discovered by police.
On July 25, 2011, Chandler Police responded to a 9-1-1 call from Erik Grumpelt’s parents who reported that they had found the defendant unresponsive in his bed at their home. He was transported to a hospital and treated for a suspected drug overdose.
Grumpelt’s father told police that his son had come to their home the prior evening and confessed that he had killed his girlfriend at an apartment the two of them shared in Mesa. He told his parents he was going to turn himself in to police the next morning and also said he had been living in the apartment with his girlfriend’s corpse.
Police went to Grumpelt’s apartment and detected a bad odor as they approached the second-floor landing outside the unit. They knocked on the door, announcing they were police officers, and received no answer. Officers were unable to unlock the door with keys provided by the apartment office and the lock appeared to be newer than those on the doors of other units in the building. The door was eventually breached with a battering ram. Once inside, officers discovered the badly decomposed body of Melinda Raya.
When interviewed by police, Grumpelt stated he had assaulted Raya on May 19, 2011, striking her three to five times in her lower left abdominal area with his knee as she lay in bed. He claimed to be angry because Raya had told him she had had sex with other men in his bed. When he returned to the bedroom a short time later, he found her unresponsive and attempted unsuccessfully to revive her by administering CPR. He admitted to changing the lock on the apartment door and attempting to mask the subsequent odor of the decomposing body with various deodorizers. Grumpelt tested positive for amphetamine and confessed to having a drug addiction.
Grumpelt was arrested and charged with one count of Second Degree Murder. A report by the Maricopa County Medical Examiner determined the death to be a homicide caused by blunt force trauma. But due to the advanced decomposition of the body, the Medical Examiner was unable to provide further explanation as to why the victim died from broken rib injuries which, by themselves, are generally non-fatal. An analysis of the victim’s liver tissue showed an extremely high blood alcohol content, and an expert retained by the defense opined that the victim likely died of alcohol poisoning.
“While nothing can ever fully assuage a family’s grief for the tragic loss of their loved one, today’s sentence represents a just resolution to a difficult case that appropriately holds this defendant accountable for taking an innocent life,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
On November 26, 2012, Grumpelt agreed to plead guilty to one count of Manslaughter, a Class 2 Dangerous Felony and Domestic Violence Offense. The 14-year prison sentence imposed today by the Honorable M. Scott McCoy is the maximum term allowable under the plea agreement.