WILLMAR, Minn. - The courtroom was filled with tears as a judge sentenced Brok Junkermeier to life without parole in the violent death of an elderly Willmar woman last summer.
Brok Junkermeier, age 19, pleaded guilty to choking and stabbing 79-year-old Lila Warwick inside her home last summer.
Warwick's grandson, Robert (Robbie) Warwick, 18, is charged with masterminding the murder. He will face first degree murder charges later. Authorities say that Junkermeier and Warwick planned to rob the woman.
Junkermeier told a courtroom packed with Warwick's family and friends that before Lila died she pleaded that she could help him. God could help him.
That sort of faith is usually found in churches rather than courtrooms with a great exception today.
Three of Lila's family members gave statements...all of them reflecting on her love for life, her family and her faith.
"She wasn't just a grandma she was a best friend"
"She was a role model"
And their "hearts continue to ache" with her loss.
Junkermeier wept and kept his head down during the victim's statements until Cheri Ekborn, Lila's daughter, said she wanted to give him a spiritual book.
The family found the keepsake booklet Lila left for them. Cheri wanted to read from that in court as well.
"Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Treat people with kindness whether rich, poor, black or white and believe in The Lord Jesus Christ and that he died for you."
"I want you to be in heaven with me."
Junkermeier had his own statement. He told the court that he can't believe he did what he did, believes in God, and believes he can be good...then asked the court for his punishment.
A trial that was expected to last weeks ended unexpectedly last Wednesday when Junkermeier surprised even his own defense attorney by deciding to plead guilty to first-degree murder charges.
Prosecutors had been painting a grisly account of the killing and alleged earlier planning of the crime for jurors. Lead prosecutor Matthew Frank said the teenagers planned the crime as far back as December 2012 and told friends about their intentions.
He showed the jury pictures of Lila Warwick's bloody body and the blood trail through her garage and kitchen. Frank outlined this series of events in the early morning of July 29.
Warwick told Junkermeier where to find a key his grandmother hid on a nail outside the house. Junkermeier waited in the garage for Mrs. Warwick to enter. He stabbed her hand with a sword-like knife he brought with him, then order her to go into the kitchen and write him a $1,500 check for the balance in her bank account.
The wounded woman got blood on the check, so Junkermeier tried to stop the bleeding and had her write another check. He then made her go to the basement where he strangled her for 15-20 minutes. When he failed to kill her, he stabbed her with the sword until she died.
The teenagers went to McDonald's after the killing, ate there, then visited the Bremer Bank where Junkermeier deposited the $1,500 check into his own account. He was not able to get cash back from the check.
Warwick and Junkermeier then went back to Lila Warwick's home to find a safe where the grandmother kept cash for Robbie Warwick out of his paycheck. They were not able to open the safe so they took it to a nearby field. Still unable to open it, they took it to Junkermeier's home, where they opened the safe and removed $30,000 in U.S. Savings Bonds.
Frank said police found the Savings Bonds in Junkermeier's bedroom. He said they recovered the sword and black ski mask that Junkermeier wore during the killing, only removing it because it was "hot as hell."
All of this, said Frank, would be seen in a videotaped confession that Junkermeier gave investigators in the days after the killing.
Asked if his client would take the witness stand during the trial, Marshall said, "He's going to take the stand by way of the videotaped statement that he gave to law enforcement for sure and so, whether he is actually on the stand or not, the jury is going to hear from him."
Junkermeier sat, slumped in his chair, but without expression while Frank detailed his alleged activities. The tall teenager, dressed in a corduroy sport coat, looked at the bloody photos on a projector screen, but showed no emotion. He wore dark-rimmed glasses and a closer cropped haircut than in his mug shot after his arrest.
The jurors heard from five witnesses on Friday. Cheri Ekbom, daughter of Lila, said that her mother was devoted to her children and grandchildren including Robbie Warwick. School custodian Jeffrey Pitt testified that he saw no bruises on Lila when he saw her at a church function the night before she died.
Lori Schroeder testified that she went to check on Lila when she failed to attend a church function on Monday afternoon. Finding Lila's car in the garage, but no answer at the door, she called 911. Granddaughter Lee Ann Warwick, 14, sobbed on the stand when asked if she was supposed to meet her grandmother on Monday, the day Lila died. Kandiyohi Sheriff's Deputy Jason Keith told of responding to the 911 call from Schroeder and finding the murder scene with two other deputies.