Warwick trial set to begin July 21, judge to consider change of venue
WILLMAR — The jury trial for Robert Warwick, 18, of Willmar, on first-degree murder charges for his alleged role in the July killing of his grandmother, was set Wednesday for July 21 through Aug. 8.
Where the trial will happen is yet to be determined, as District Judge David Mennis will consider a motion filed by Warwick’s defense attorney, Daniel Mohs, seeking a change of venue to move the trial away from Kandiyohi County.
During Wednesday’s pre-trial hearing, Mennis ordered that Mohs will have until May 2 to collect the news media articles that Mohs says constitute significant prejudicial pretrial publicity and write an argument to be considered by the judge.
Matthew Frank, one of two assistant attorneys general prosecuting the case, will have until May 9 to file a response with the court. Frank noted in the hearing that the state is opposed to the change of venue.
Mennis told the attorneys that he would rule on the motion as soon as possible.
Robert “Robbie” Warwick, 18, was indicted on two first-degree murder charges for his alleged role in the July 29, 2013, killing of his grandmother, Lila Warwick, 79, at her home along the east edge of Willmar. He faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted.
Warwick’s co-defendant, Brok Junkermeier, 19, was sentenced April 9 to life in prison without parole. Junkermeier changed his plea to guilty to first-degree premeditated murder on the 10th day of his jury trial in Kandiyohi County District Court. During his plea hearing, Junkermeier admitted that he stabbed and strangled Lila Warwick after months of planning with Robert Warwick.
The third defendant in the case, Devon Jenkins, 16, of Willmar, pleaded guilty in December to aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Jenkins was sentenced to the Prairie Lakes Youth Program, will serve probation until his 21st birthday and must complete 100 hours of community service each year as part of his juvenile sentence.
Under extended juvenile jurisdiction, Jenkins’ adult sentence, of 15 years in prison, was stayed but could be executed if he fails to comply with the juvenile sentence requirements.
In his written motion filed last week, Mohs argued that Robert Warwick cannot receive a fair trial due to significant prejudicial pretrial publicity, including more than two dozen articles in this newspaper. Many of the articles portray Warwick as “the mastermind” of the alleged conspiracy to kill the elder Warwick.
The term “mastermind” is a description used by authorities in the original criminal complaints in the case. The charging documents note that Junkermeier told investigators Warwick was the mastermind of the plan to kill his grandmother and steal a large sum of money in her possession.
Warwick appeared at the Wednesday hearing in blue jail clothing, as he’s been held on $2 million bail since the September grand jury indictment. He now has a close-cut, shorter haircut than his previously released jail booking photo.
The case is being prosecuted by the state Attorney General’s office, with Frank and Robert Plesha, also an assistant attorney general, handling the case. The same attorneys prosecuted Junkermeier’s case.