WILLMAR - Robert Warwick, 18, of Willmar, pleaded guilty to first degree murder while committing a felony in Kandiyohi County District Court in Willmar on Wednesday for the July 29, 2013 death of Lila Warwick, 79, in her home.
Judge David Mennis sentenced him to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years. As part of a plea agreement a count of first degree murder, premeditated was dismissed.
Warwick told family members he was sorry for his actions, and said “sorry to my grandmother who is watching over me every day.’’
On the witness stand, he admitted that he could have “reasonably foreseen’’ that his grandmother would be killed when Brok Junkermeier entered his grandmother’s home on U.S. Highway 12 East with a large knife and intent on robbing her.
Junkermeier, 20, pleaded guilty in March to carrying out the killing, and is serving a life sentence without parole.
Devon Jenkins, 17, pleaded guilty in December to aiding and abetting second-degree murder and is completing a sentence at Prairie Lakes Youth Programs.
Prosecutors accuse Warwick of masterminding a plot which called for killing his grandmother. He gave Junkermeier the code to enter her garage and had told him where a key was hidden.
“I am angry,’’ said Lila Warwick’s daughter, Cheri Ekbom in a victim impact statement to the court. She chastised her nephew for not taking “full responsibility for the murder and betrayal of his grandmother.’’
In court and speaking afterwards, Ekbom said text messages, and accounts from Warwick’s co-conspirators all indicate that the intent was to murder her mother.
“I fully believe that he planned it,’’ she said outside of court.
In court, Ekbom read a narrative titled “hero’’ that she had found in her grandmother’s desk drawer one week after her death. Signed by the defendant, it told of the good deeds his grandmother had performed and how he loved to talk about sports with her.
“Whatever happened to the sweet, young boy who thought his grandmother to be a hero?’’ Ekbom asked in court.
Defense Attorney Daniel Mohs told reporters after the hearing that Warwick wanted to plead guilty and avoid putting his family through the anguish of a trial, which had been scheduled to begin July 21.
Mohs said that his client has always maintained that there was never a plan to murder his grandmother. “It all went haywire” when Warwick fought with the intruder who surprised her that morning, according to the attorney.
Ekbom said family members joined on Lila Warwick’s birthdate, May 26, to celebrate her life and enjoy a “grandma Lila meal’’ of Sloppy Joes, Special K bars, and fruit.
Her mother had lived a full life, she said. It’s sad to have lost her in so violent a manner, but said Ekbom: “In my mind it is more sad to see my nephew lose his life.’’
She said her hope now was for reconciliation among family members split by the tragedy.