Jurors hear taped confession
WILLMAR –– In a conversational tone, murder suspect Brok Junkermeier laid out details of how he strangled and stabbed Lila Warwick to death after he forced her to write him a check for $1,500.
“I killed Lila Warwick. Totally,” said Junkermeier, 19, of Willmar, in the videotaped interview with detectives that was played for jurors Tuesday at the Kandiyohi County Courthouse in Willmar.
That interview was recorded on July 31, 2013 –– two days after the 79-year-old Warwick was found dead in her home on the east edge of Willmar.
Junkermeier and Warwick’s 18-year-old grandson Robert “Robbie” Warwick, of Willmar, are each charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the case — one count of premeditated murder and one count of murder while committing the felony of burglary. Devon Jenkins, 16, of Willmar, has already been sentenced as a juvenile for aiding and abetting second-degree murder. He was in the car when Junkermeier went to Lila Warwick’s home.
Tuesday was the third day that prosecutors from the State Attorney General’s office presented evidence against Junkermeier, who faces the possibility of life in prison without parole if convicted.
“There’s nothing good to say about this case,” said Junkermeier’s defense attorney, Kent Marshall, in brief comments outside the courthouse Tuesday afternoon. “It’s chilling.”
But Marshall added he does not believe Junkermeier is guilty of all the offenses charged.
The prosecution’s case included testimony Tuesday morning from a bank teller who said that on the day that Lila Warwick was found dead, Junkermeier tried to cash the check that was made out to him and signed by Lila Warwick.
In the afternoon, jurors began watching the video of a nearly four-hour interview of Junkermeier conducted by two detectives, including Ken McDonald from the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, who said they wanted to talk to Junkermeier about a check.
After being read his Miranda rights and asked about how he came to have a check from a woman who had just been killed, Junkermeier initially said that he had met Lila Warwick at church and that she paid him for doing chores at her house.
He denied he was involved with Warwick’s death.
McDonald later in the interview told Junkermeier that Robbie Warwick was the “focal point” of the investigation.
“Know what I mean by that?” asked McDonald. “He’s the player. He’s the mastermind. He’s the organizer.”
He told Junkermeier that a person who lies gets into “deeper and deeper trouble” and said he thought Junkermeier was a “stand-up-of-enough guy” to come clean.
McDonald then made a simple statement: “You killed Lila.” He quickly followed that statement with a rundown of the details surrounding the woman’s death.
“OK. I did it,” said Junkermeier. “That first story was false.”
He said he “tried to get out of it because it wasn’t my plan. … It’s not even my grandmother.”
Junkermeier then proceeded to tell how the plan was formed about eight months earlier with Robbie Warwick, who reportedly did not like his grandmother and thought she had $40,000 to $60,000 in her house.
Junkermeier said Robbie Warwick provided information about where the house key was and what days his sister would not be staying at their grandmother’s house.
Junkermeier said he and Warwick and another individual made a first attempt early in July but got scared off.
At that time Junkermeier was wielding a large “samurai” sword that he determined was too big. He told the investigators that Robbie Warwick said his grandmother was frail and that a sword that big would “probably break her in half” if she was slashed.
Junkermeier got a smaller weapon from the same friend who provided the samurai sword, which reportedly came from a family collection.
Junkermeier said he went alone to Lila Warwick’s home about a week later, but quickly left without entering the house.
Under their “code,” Junkermeier was supposed to call Warwick three times in a row if the crime was completed and call once if it was not.
Around 4 a.m. on July 29, Junkermeier and Devon Jenkins went to the home.
While Jenkins slept in the car, Junkermeier, wearing a black hoodie and ski mask, entered the garage and waited for Lila Warwick.
Using a piece of paper and pen, Junkermeier sketched out Warwick’s house, and as he talked about each action during the July interview, he added another room or notation to the map.
“I can usually draw better,” he said to the investigators.
The jurors had a copy of that hand-drawn sketch as they watched the video.
Junkermeier said Warwick screamed when she first saw him in the garage.
He slashed her hand with the sword and told her to get on the ground.
“Robbie said she’d do what I said,” said Junkermeier.
He then described every move he made and every move the injured and bleeding Lila Warwick made as she was forced to go to her computer to check her bank balance and write a $1,500 check to Junkermeier.
“She started to talk about God,” said Junkermeier.
He then took Warwick into the garage and down the steps into the basement.
As he stood behind her, he tried to strangle her with his bare hands and she sunk to the floor.
He said he tried for 10 minutes to strangle Warwick, but when she continued to breathe he tried breaking her neck.
Junkermeier said he ran back upstairs where he had left the sword and, as he stood over her, stabbed the prostrate woman at least six times.
“It went all the way through. It went to the floor,” Junkermeier said of stabbing Warwick with the sword.
He then talked about trying to cash the check at his bank later that day, even though he had questioned Robbie Warwick about the wisdom of getting a check instead of a bank PIN number.
“I knew I’d get caught eventually,” said Junkermeier.
Marshall told reporters Tuesday afternoon that in “many ways” Junkermeier was a “very good kid.”
While saying there was “no question” of what Junkermeier’s role was in the killing, Marshall said he did not believe his client was guilty of all the specific charges.
When the trial resumes at 9 a.m. today, the remaining hour of the taped interview will be played.