Three Willmar teens arrested in killing of 79-year-old woman
WILLMAR, Minn. -- A 2012 Willmar High School graduate, a 17-year-old boy and a 16-year boy, all from Willmar, are in custody and awaiting formal charges in the fatal stabbing of 79-year-old Lila Warwick, who was found dead in her home Monday evening.
According to the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office, Brok Nathaniel Junkermeier, 19, was arrested late Wednesday evening at the West Central Tribune, where he was working a part-time job in the mailroom.
He was booked into the Kandiyohi County Jail on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree burglary.
The 16-year-old was booked into the Prairie Lakes Youth Program Detention Facility in Willmar on charges of liability for crimes of another for second-degree murder and first-degree burglary.
His name has not been released yet because he is a juvenile.
The 17-year-old was arrested about 1:15 p.m. Thursday, Kandiyohi County Sheriff Dan Hartog said in a news release Thursday night.
Hartog said that based on information to date, investigators believe the killing was not a random act.
Junkermeier could make a court appearance as early as this morning, but Hartog said Thursday that he wasn't sure when the other suspects will appear in court.
"Our reports have to get over to the county attorney, and they have to take the information off those reports to draft the complaint,' Hartog said.
"It's good that we have people in custody in regards to who did this and for the family and for the public.'
According to Hartog, an autopsy performed by the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office showed that Warwick died of multiple stab wounds and injuries to the neck consistent with strangulation.
She was found dead in her home in the 3000 block of U.S. Highway 12 East, just outside the Willmar city limits, after police were called to check on Warwick's welfare.
The Star Tribune reported that authorities were initially called by a person at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Willmar out of concern that Warwick had not picked up her granddaughter to bring her to vacation Bible school.
Warwick was a longtime, faithful member at the church and volunteered for many church and community activities, according to Greg Enterline, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church.
Hartog said sheriff's office investigators and agents of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension worked together to investigate the case and zeroed in on the suspects.
He said the investigation is continuing.
Warwick's daughter, Cheri Ekbom, who lives in the Twin Cities, told the Star Tribune that a detective indicated additional arrests could be possible, but provided no other details.
Ekbom also told the Star Tribune that she was confident the suspects didn't know her mother.
Past criminal history
Court records from Kandiyohi, Meeker and Stearns Counties show Junkermeier had previous infractions in the last year.
Last December, he was convicted in Kandiyohi County District Court on a gross misdemeanor charge of receiving stolen property.
In January, he was convicted in Stearns County District Court on a misdemeanor charge of theft. In February, he was convicted in Meeker County District Court on a misdemeanor charge of tampering with a motor vehicle.
Junkermeier didn't serve jail time for any of the offenses. A 90-day jail sentence in Stearns County was stayed.
He was on supervised probation in Stearns County and unsupervised probation in Meeker and Kandiyohi counties, according to court records.
One of the conditions of his release in Meeker County was that Junkermeier remain law abiding.
Willmar school officials declined to comment on Junkermeier, but information gleaned from public records and archives with the West Central Tribune shows Junkermeier's name on an occasional honor roll list.
When he was in eighth grade he was named one of the middle school's students of the month and in 2011 he won the sweepstakes merit award for crafts at the Kandiyohi County Fair.
Junkermeier played basketball his freshman year in high school, according to one of his classmates, Ricky Martinez, who also played on the team. After Junkermeier quit playing, he recorded statistics for the team.
Sports were one of his biggest passions, Martinez said in a phone interview Thursday.
"He was really big into sports," said Martinez, 19, of Willmar. "We'd always have conversations about sports. He liked the Vikings and the Colts. He really liked Dwight Howard as an athlete."
Martinez said he made an effort to reach out to Junkermeier, who often sat alone at lunch and "didn't have very many friends."
"People knew about him, but they didn't talk to him," Martinez said. "They just picked on him. He was an easy target. He wouldn't really react much; he'd just walk away."
Another one of Junkermeier's high school classmates also said he didn't show much expression.
"He didn't really show much emotion or personality," said Graham Dahl, 19, of Willmar. "He was always straight-faced and didn't really smile or show if he was happy or sad. He was a pretty weird kid."
Junkermeier had little respect for his teachers, Dahl said, and would sometimes get kicked out of class.
"There were occasions when he would say things that didn't need to be said," said Dahl, who graduated with Junkermeier in 2012. "He could be really rude and impatient."
Still, Dahl said he was "shocked" when he learned that Junkermeier had been arrested.
"Me and my friends just can't believe it," Dahl said. "We knew him and we didn't think he would ever kill anyone. It's pretty messed up."
Martinez, who had several classes with Junkermeier in high school, said he was "a pretty nice person" who was misunderstood and "picked on because he was different."
"Right now, people are saying all this stuff that shouldn't be said, when they didn't truly know him as a person," Martinez said. "Other people played a big part in it by picking on him and not acknowledging him."
Posts on Junkermeier's Facebook page and particularly his Twitter page indicate a troubled lifestyle. His last Twitter post was on Wednesday, when he retweeted a message about handling rumors.
David Little, Ashley White, Carolyn Lange | Forum News Service