Katie Ekbom can’t understand why someone would kill her 79-year-old grandmother.
“She’s a little old lady, I just don’t understand who would do that,” said Ekbom, 21. “She’s obviously not going to put up that much of a fight. She weighs like 100 pounds. She’s tiny.”
Kandiyohi County sheriff’s deputies found Lila Warwick’s body early Monday evening in her home just outside Willmar.
Deputies were called by someone from Redeemer Lutheran Church requesting a check on Warwick, who lived alone on busy Hwy. 12, according to Sheriff Daniel Hartog.
Warwick, who had eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, helped with office duties and vacation Bible school at the church, located about 3 miles southwest of her home.
An autopsy is pending. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s mobile crime lab is assisting with the homicide investigation, the sheriff said.
Warwick was supposed to pick up a 14-year-old granddaughter Monday afternoon and take her to the church’s vacation Bible school but never showed up, said Jennifer Warwick, Lila’s former daughter-in-law.
“I told her she’ll come because she never misses,” said Jennifer Warwick, who divorced Kent Warwick about 12 years ago and hasn’t spoken to him for several years. “She just took over her son’s responsibility for my kids. My kids were her life.”
Once deputies were dispatched to the home, they found the door locked, she said. They entered using the garage code, and “they found her in the home dead,” Jennifer Warwick said.
Lila Warwick, “who had more energy than a 39-year-old,” had lived alone in her home since her husband died in 1976, family members said.
When she wasn’t cruising the garage sale circuit in search of a “good deal” or leading an exercise class for seniors at the community center, she most likely was sitting in a front row gymnasium seat, watching her grandkids’ basketball games and gymnastics meets.
But Warwick wasn’t the type of fan who shouted because she didn’t want to embarrass her grandkids, Ekbom said.
Warwick also delivered Meals on Wheels and volunteered at church, where she helped in the office and with the preschool kids, Ekbom said.
“She was always very generous,” she said. “She was always thinking of others.”
But mostly, she was a “good grandmother,” said her daughter, Cheri Ekbom. “She was the taxi grandmother. She was a cooking grandmother.”
Willmar Mayor Frank Yanish knew family was very important to the woman he walked with about once a week at the Kandi Mall.
“I never knew her last name, just that she was very family oriented.”
Word about her death began to slowly get around town on Tuesday, he and other city officials said.
A homicide in Willmar, a town of about 19,500 about 90 miles west of the Twin Cities, is a “bit unusual,” said City Council Member Denis Anderson.
“I’m really shocked. … It’s very unsettling,” he said. “But we really don’t know anything.”
The sheriff, who said investigators found blood in Warwick’s garage, could not say whether the public should be particularly concerned for their safety, given the lack of an arrest.
“That’s what we’re investigating right now,” he said Tuesday.
Anyone with information about Warwick’s death can call the Sheriff’s Office at 1-320-235-1260.