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Release denied for 16-year-old charged in slaying of Willmar, Minn., woman

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Release denied for 16-year-old charged in slaying of Willmar, Minn., woman
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

WILLMAR - The parents of 16-year-old Devon Jenkins sought Monday to have him released to their custody, saying he would be under close adult supervision and attend all scheduled court appearances.

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Eighth District Judge Michael Thompson denied the request, however, and ordered the youth to remain in detention at Prairie Lakes Youth Programs in Willmar.

Jenkins, accompanied by his parents, attorney and a group of family supporters, appeared in court Monday for a probable cause hearing on two charges of second-degree murder. He is the youngest of three defendants in the slaying two weeks ago of Lila Warwick, 79.

Warwick, who lived alone on the outskirts of Willmar, was found stabbed and strangled in her home on July 29. Within days, three suspects were arrested: Brok Junkermeier, 19, who is alleged to have committed the killing; and Robert Warwick, 17, the victim's grandson and alleged mastermind of a plan to rob Warwick of her money. Jenkins told investigators he waited outside Lila Warwick's house in Junkermeier's car but was not involved in the robbery or murder, according to court documents that accompanied the formal filing of charges.

Jenkins and Warwick are both juveniles but could be tried as adults pending the outcome of certification hearings.

Because they are accused of felony-level crimes, their court appearances are open to the public.

Junkermeier is scheduled to be in court today for a hearing. Warwick has a court appearance on Thursday.

Fred Jenkins and Vanessa Mitchell said Monday that if their son was released to either of them, they were each prepared to keep him under adult supervision and out of any potential trouble.

Mitchell, who lives in Red Wing, said he would have 24-hour surveillance under her custody and would attend online schooling. The youth has attended every court appearance so far and "there's no reason" why he would miss any future scheduled court dates, she said. She also said it would benefit her son to be away from the Willmar area.

Jenkins's father, Fred, who lives in Willmar, said the family has strong ties with their local church. Devon realizes the impact of Warwick's murder and understands "how much trouble he really is in," he said.

The youth is not a flight risk, Fred Jenkins said. He also offered to pay for an electronic monitoring bracelet if this could be an option.

"I just leave it in your hands, your honor," he concluded.

But Thompson ruled quickly against release, ordering Devon Jenkins to stay in custody at Prairie Lakes.

"There is a lot of incentive to disappear. A 16-year-old can disappear even when being monitored," he said.

Stephen Wentzell, the prosecuting attorney with the Kandiyohi County Attorney's Office, also requested the continuation of Jenkins's detention order, citing the "serious nature" of the crime with which he's charged.

Jenkins sat quietly during the hearing, facing the front of the courtroom and answering "yes" or "no" to the judge's questions. During a break in the proceedings he turned around to talk to his parents, who were seated behind him.

Thompson also granted motions Monday to waive the timeline for Jenkins's attorney to challenge probable cause, as well as the timeline for holding an adult certification hearing.

The certification hearing, held to determine whether Jenkins should be tried as an adult, had been set for Aug. 29 but was removed from the court calendar while an independent examiner conducts an assessment. Jenkins's attorney, Carter Greiner, said the defendant also will reserve the right to challenge probable cause pending the outcome of the certification hearing.

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Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at http://healthbeat.areavoices.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

(320) 235-1150
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