From Wabasha to Warroad, from Sleepy Eye to Silver Bay, Dateline Minnesota scours the state to bring you breaking news from outside the Twin Cities.

Rescuers fish three young men from ice chunk in Mississippi River

Posted by: Pam Louwagie Updated: April 3, 2014 - 10:40 AM

 

More than a dozen rescuers rushed to the aid of three young men who got stranded on a chunk of ice in the Mississippi River in Brainerd on Wednesday.

Four young men told authorities that they had been walking along the banks of the river when a chunk broke off and floated into the middle, stranding three of them, Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek said.

One of the young men eventually called his mother, who called 911. Rescuers, including a dozen firefighters, Brainerd Police, the Crow Wing County dive team and North Memorial Ambulance responded quickly, Stunek said.

Firefighters scaled down a steep, 100-foot embankment in the back yard of resident Melissa Yeager, bringing an inflatable banana boat with them. They quickly reached the young men where the ice chunk got caught on some stumps in the river.

“I think this time of year with the ice breaking up, not only on the river but on the lakes … you have to be very, very cautious,”  Stunek said, adding that the river’s current can be swift through Brainerd and the young men were lucky.

The young men, two of whom are 19 and the other 20, didn’t seem scared, Stunek said, adding that they told him they had been on the ice for a while hoping it would float to shore.

Photo courtesy of Melissa Yeager.

Defendant in Willmar trial changes plea to guilty

Posted by: Jenna Ross Updated: April 2, 2014 - 4:35 PM

In a surprise move, the 19-year-old on trial in Willmar, Minn., for allegedly killing Lila Warwick, his friend's grandmother, has pleaded guilty to one charge of first-degree, premeditated murder.

The fourth day of testimony in the trial of Brok Junkermeier was set to resume at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, but attorneys were meeting behind closed doors. When they emerged, Junkermeier went into the chambers of Judge Donald Spilseth.

Junkermeier said that he was changing his plea because he committed the crime and to keep "the families from having to listen to more of the evidence."

"You don’t want anybody to have to hear anymore," his attorney Kent Marshall said.

"No, I don’t," Junkermeier said.

Marshall and Spilseth questioned Junkermeier on the stand, asking whether he understood that the penalty for first-degree, premeditated murder is life in prison without the possibility of parole. Junkermeier said yes.

Junkermeier had faced two charges -- first-degree, premeditated murder and first-degree murder in the course of a burglary. In a four-hour, videotaped interview with investigators, he admitted to carrying out the July ambush robbery and attack prosecutors say he planned with Warwick’s grandson, Robert Inocencio Warwick, 18.

Sentencing will be held next week. Lila Warwick's daughter, who declined to comment Wednesday afternoon, will make a statement then.

Willmar murder weapon shown in court

Posted by: Jenna Ross Updated: April 2, 2014 - 12:55 PM

Jurors saw a host of physical evidence Wednesday in the trial of Brok Junkermeier -- including a long, curved dagger the 19-year-old said he used to kill his friend's grandmother.

Junkermeier faces first-degree murder charges for carrying out the July robbery and attack on Lila Warwick, 79, that prosecutors say he planned with her grandson, Robert Inocencio Warwick, 18.

The jury also watched the final hour of a nearly four-hour interview between Junkermeier and two investigators during which he confessed to killing Lila Warwick and agreed to bring them to the abandoned farmhouse where he discarded the weapon and sweatshirt.

After Junkermeier led them to the property, deputies found the dagger and black sweatshirt in the long grass.

Junkermeier told investigators that he and "Robbie" Warwick wanted the tens of thousands of dollars they believed Lila Warwick kept in a safe. But when the pair broke open that safe hours after her slaying, they discovered mostly documents -- including a passport, high school diploma and baptism certificate. They also found $30,000 in savings bonds made out to Lila Warwick, which deputies later spotted on Junkermeier's bedside table.

When asked with what crimes he ought to be charged, Junkermeier didn't hesitate.

"First degree murder," he said. "I’d say premeditated murder. Accessory to murder also..."

Video shows defendant's matter-of-fact confession

Posted by: Jenna Ross Updated: April 2, 2014 - 10:49 AM

In the courtroom, Brok Junkermeier is a quiet 19-year-old with close-cropped hair and glasses. When prosecutors show photos of Lila Warwick, the 79-year-old he allegedly killed, he turns his head and lowers his gaze.

But in a videotaped interview shown to jurors Tuesday in Willmar, Minn., a shaggy-haired Junkermeier casually admitted to killing Warwick, using his own body to show where he stabbed her "six, seven times" after choking her and breaking her neck.

"One, two, three, four," Junkermeier said, hitting points on his chest and abdomen.

Junkermeier has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges for allegedly carrying out the July robbery and attack prosecutors say he planned with Warwick’s grandson, Robert Inocencio Warwick, 18. Prosecutors say Junkermeier forced Lila Warwick to write him a check for $1,500 before killing her, returning to the house later that day to steal her safe.

Two days after Lila Warwick's death, investigators approached Junkermeier at his work and drove him to the sheriff’s office, where they interviewed him for nearly four hours. At first, he denied being involved in Lila Warwick's death, saying the check was for chores he had done around her house.

But after investigators implied that Lila Warwick had recently installed security cameras in her house, Junkermeier confessed, saying, "I killed Lila Warwick."

He described not only the attack in late July but the two times he had been to the house before, with the same intention. The first time, "Robbie" Warwick and another teen accompanied him, he said, rifling through the things in Lila Warwick’s car. A noise scared them off. The next time, a solo Junkermeier saw a light on, so he left.

Junkermeier also told investigators about returning to Lila Warwick's house on the east edge of Willmar to grab her safe. Robert Warwick, then 17 years old, came inside, too, and was disturbed by all the blood, he said.

"He keeps saying, 'Oh my god.'" Junkermeier said in the video. "He doesn’t want to look at anything."

Early in the interview, Brad Redmond, a detective sergeant with the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office, suggested to Junkermeier that Robert Warwick was the crime's "mastermind," an assertion repeated in complaints and other court documents. (Warwick's trial has not yet been scheduled.)

"He’s the planner, he’s the mastermind, he’s the organizer," Redmond said. "I’m thinking he’s the organizer of this." Later, he added, "Don’t take the fall for anybody else on this."

Junkermeier then told them that Robbie had suggested killing his grandmother because he didn't like her and she had a lot of money. "It wasn’t my plan," Junkermeier said. "You know it’s not my plan. It’s not even my grandma."

Outside the courthouse Tuesday evening, Junkermeier's attorney Kent Marshall repeated his assertion that while Junkermeier killed Lila Warwick, that doesn't mean he's guilty of the two charges -- first-degree, premeditated murder and first-degree murder in the course of a burglary.

"No question about what he's done. You've heard the evidence," Marshall said. "Clarence Darrow said we might hate the sin but never the sinner.

"And I think that's important to remember here."

Rural Montgomery teen charged with first-degree murder in father's killing

Posted by: Pam Louwagie Updated: April 1, 2014 - 11:15 AM

A rural Montgomery teen accused of shooting his sleeping father in the head in January now faces a charge of first-degree premeditated murder.

A Le Sueur County grand jury indicted Jonas D. Nelson, 18, who was previously charged with second-degree murder in the killing of 47-year-old Richard J. Nelson. The teen called police after the Jan. 6 shooting at a farm house and deputies arrived to find his father on the living room floor.

According to the original charges: The defendant at first told authorities that he was in an upstairs bedroom when he heard a gunshot. Upon further questioning, the teen complained about the way his father had been treating him, citing his father's religious views and saying the man had acted more like a "probation officer." 

The teen told police he "just snapped" and hadn't thought of killing his father until that night.

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