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Jury seated in Willmar murder trial, opening statements, testimony begin today

WILLMAR — A full jury panel of 12 jurors and two alternates has been seated in the Brok Junkermeier murder trial.

Junkermeier, 19, of Willmar, is accused of first-degree murder in the July 29, 2013, death of Lila Warwick, 79. Warwick’s body was found in the basement of her home just outside Willmar the afternoon of July 29.

Preliminary jury instructions and opening statements from the attorneys are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. today in the Kandiyohi County Courthouse in Willmar before Eighth District Judge Donald Spilseth.

Witness testimony will also begin today. Court will recess for the weekend in the early afternoon.

Over three days of jury selection, prosecuting attorneys Robert Plesha and Matthew Frank, both assistant attorneys general, and defense attorney Kent Marshall interviewed 54 potential jurors — 26 men and 28 women.

The final panel of 14 people who will hear the case includes seven women and seven men. Ultimately, 12 of the jurors will deliberate.

The men on the panel include a city of Willmar employee, two employees of Divine House, two truck drivers, a retail employee and a teacher.

The women include a homemaker, a state employee, a retail employee, a woman who works in her family business, a basketball coach, a nursing student who also works at Project Turnabout, and a woman who enters data in computers for an area business.

Of the 40 potential jurors who were dismissed, about half said they had followed news accounts of Warwick’s death and had strong feelings. The murder has generated heavy amounts of local and statewide publicity.

Other jurors were dismissed for medical reasons or because of work or family situations. Several were dismissed due to current or past legal troubles.

The prosecution and defense also used a number of peremptory challenges in which they are not required to give a reason for excusing a juror.

Spilseth told jurors when they were chosen that testimony in the trial could be expected to last at least one week and possibly two. He warned them to avoid news reports about the trial and to avoid Facebook and other social media during the trial. They could tell people they were serving on the jury, he said, but they could not discuss the case with anyone.

Junkermeier has been in custody since last summer and has been held in the Kandiyohi County Jail on $2 million.

Junkermeier and Lila Warwick’s grandson, Robert Warwick, 18, of Willmar, were indicted on first-degree murder charges in September for their alleged roles in her death.

Both young men face the possibility of life in prison if convicted. Robert Warwick is also in custody on $2 million bail.

The third teen charged in the case, Devon Jenkins, 16, of Willmar, has already been sentenced as a juvenile for aiding and abetting second-degree murder. He is serving a sentence at the Prairie Lakes juvenile detention center.

Court documents say that Junkermeier allegedly entered the grandmother’s home and stabbed and strangled her after making her write him a check from her bank account. The teens also allegedly returned to the home after the murder and stole a small safe. Some of Lila Warwick’s documents were found when law officers served a search warrant on Junkermeier’s home.

According to court records, Robert Warwick was the alleged mastermind of the crime, which he and Junkermeier had allegedly planned for months. Robert Warwick allegedly believed that his grandmother had a large amount of money in her home.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340