Community mourns slain Willmar grandmother

Shocked neighbors, relatives say victim helped raise the 17-year-old grandson now charged in her brutal murder.

WILLMAR, MINN. – Five days after 79-year-old Lila Warwick was killed in a burglary allegedly plotted by her 17-year-old grandson, hundreds of family, friends and community members gathered at the Willmar church that she had spent years at worshiping and volunteering. They mourned, but tried to focus not on the graphic way she was killed , but on her life as a caring, generous church volunteer dedicated to her two children and eight grandchildren.

“She was an outstanding woman, always a giver, always serving other people,” said Mary Ann Kon, a longtime friend who is in a senior citizen exercise class with Warwick, adding about the brutal break-in: “For us widows, it’s scary.”

Robert I. Warwick, the grandson of victim Lila Warwick, was charged Friday in Kandiyohi District Court along with Brok Junkermeier, 19, and Devon J. Jenkins, 16.

Her funeral was held at Redeemer Lutheran Church, where she had volunteered. In a Facebook post, the Rev. Greg Enterline wrote to the congregation:  "I'm sure many of you have been trying to process the fact that Lila will not be with us every week at worship. I am doing the same thing. It's hard to believe that someone would take the life of this wonderful woman who cared so much about others and about her faith."

Shocked neighbors and family members said Lila Warwick had helped raise “Robbie” and loved her grandson.

Junkermeier slashed the victim with a knife, then strangled her, while Jenkins acted as a lookout, the charges say. Robert Warwick admitted to plotting the break-in and giving the other teens information about his grandmother’s house and habits, investigators contend.

“It’s hard enough to find out your mother was murdered,” said Cheri Ekbom, Lila Warwick’s daughter. “But the fact that it was by the hands of her own grandson — that’s even more difficult. It’s a very, very sad day.”

Kandiyohi County Sheriff Daniel Hartog said that as the investigation continues, “we’re talking to more people who could possibly be involved.”

Preliminary autopsy results show that Lila Warwick was stabbed several times Monday morning and strangled. Her body was found late that afternoon inside her rambler-style house along Hwy. 12 on the eastern edge of town.

Warwick is accused in a juvenile petition of two counts of second-degree murder, intentional and unintentional. Jenkins is also accused in a juvenile petition of the same counts, and of having “aided, advised, hired, counseled or conspired” with the others. Junkermeier is charged with intentional second-degree murder.

Junkermeier, a 2012 graduate of Willmar High School with a record of petty crime, and Jenkins were arrested Wednesday night.

Robert Warwick was arrested Thursday afternoon. All are from Willmar. All remain in custody, with Junkermeier’s bail set at $1 million.

Ekbom said that her nephew was “the first thought that came to my mind” when she learned of her mother’s death. “As much as I didn’t want to believe it was him, I suspected.”

The teen was abusing drugs, Ekbom said, and his grandmother was trying to get him help.

“I love my nephew and want him to get help,” she said. “But he made some wrong choices, and he needs to have the consequences.”

Robert Warwick’s mother said Lila had been devoted to him and his siblings. “My kids are her life,” said Jennifer Warwick, who divorced Robert’s father years ago but stayed close to her former mother-in-law.

Victim slashed, robbed

According to the charges, Ekbom told investigators that Robert Warwick was abusing drugs, had said he hated his grandmother, and texted a cousin months ago asking what he would get if she died.

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