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Continued: Friends still puzzle over Willmar teen's role in grandmother's murder

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 7, 2014 - 5:19 AM

“But I don’t think he hated his grandmother.”

‘My hero is my grandma’

Sifting through her mother’s desk drawer a few days after she was murdered, Ekbom found a note. At the top of the page, typed in big, bold letters: HERO. At the bottom, a name: Robbie Warwick.

“My hero is my grandma Lila,” he wrote. “She is 5’7” and has brown hair. She also has glasses.”

A week before, the undated letter was a simple keepsake of a grandson’s kind words. But by then, Warwick was sitting in jail, accused of plotting her death, then stealing her safe. His words caught in the back of Ekbom’s throat.

“My grandma does the right thing,” Ekbom said, reading the note aloud in the courtroom here Wednesday. “One time a lady dropped 20 dollars and my grandma still gave the 20 dollars back to the lady.”

Ekbom looked up at Robbie. He was crying, rocking forward and back, wiping his tears with the sleeve of his orange sweatshirt.

In trying to make sense of her mother’s murder, Ekbom has pored over the notes she took during Junkermeier’s trial, which ended abruptly after three days of testimony, when he pleaded guilty to first-degree, premeditated murder. One friend mentioned that Robbie didn’t think his grandma liked him. That’s a lie, Ekbom said. But she can see how Robbie might not understand how Lila loved him — but not his actions.

In the months before she was killed, Lila Warwick had confronted Robbie about smoking pot, Ekbom said.

“My mom wasn’t afraid to be assertive,” she said outside the Kandiyohi County Courthouse last week. “As a teenager, you don’t want to hear your grandma get in your face.”

Ekbom’s brother, Robbie’s father, lives in North Dakota and hasn’t been a part of his life for many years, Ekbom said. Lila had worried about Robbie not having a “father figure, a mentor figure in his life,” she added.

“Grandmas shouldn’t have to confront,” she said. “They should just love and do grandma stuff. Not do parenting stuff. And sometimes the boundaries there were a little blurry.”

Teen said he tagged along

Had Junkermeier’s trial continued, jurors would have likely heard from an 18-year-old who told investigators that he was one of Robbie’s best friends. Driving with Junkermeier and Warwick, the teenager heard the pair planning.

Warwick “would just keep on asking Brok questions all about it,” he said, according to the transcript filed in Kandiyohi County Court. “They would talk about how they would get in and, I don’t know, they, they just like trying to like iron out details, I think.”

The teenager told investigators in the August interview that Warwick and Junkermeier had committed petty crimes together before. He admitted to being along when Junkermeier and Warwick stole a “silver ten commandments” and a Harley-Davidson bag from a car. The friend also tagged along the day of Lila Warwick’s death, when Junkermeier and Warwick went to Lila Warwick’s house to steal her safe.

But the teenager pushed back against the idea that Warwick was plotting Lila Warwick’s murder.

“I have known him since he was a little kid,” he said. “I know he loved his grandma, and I don’t know if he meant for it to go that far. I think he meant more just for a robbery.”

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