Teen charged in murder sentenced to Prairie Lakes, remains on probation until he is 21
By Gretchen Schlosser/ West Central Tribune
The 16-year-old Willmar teen involved in the murder of Lila Warwick was sentenced Monday to complete the programs at Prairie Lakes Youth Programs in Willmar.
Devon Jenkins was ordered to complete both the secure and non-secure programs at Prairie Lakes, serve probation until his 21st birthday and do 100 hours of community service each year as part of his juvenile sentence handed down by District Judge Michael Thompson in Kandiyohi County District Court.
Under the extended juvenile jurisdiction program, Jenkins’s adult sentence, of 15 years in prison, was stayed and could be executed if he fails to comply with the juvenile sentence requirements.
“I really plan to do well,” Jenkins said to the judge. “I will move forward and be a productive member of society.”
Jenkins also apologized, choking up with tears in his eyes when he addressed the Warwick family. “I go to bed every night thinking about the awful things I did,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine my life without my mother.”
Warwick, 79, was found dead, stabbed and strangled, at her residence on the east edge of Willmar after she failed to arrive at a church meeting on July 29. Jenkins was charged in the case along with Brok Junkermeier, 19, and Lila Warwick’s grandson Robert Warwick, now 18. All three are from Willmar.
Jenkins pleaded guilty in December to aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
At Monday’s sentencing, both Jenkins and his parents, Fred Jenkins and Vanessa Mitchell, asked Thompson to allow the teen to remain at Prairie Lakes, where he has been held since his arrest after the July 29 murder.
Jenkins was given credit for the 181 days he has already served at Prairie Lakes.
Jenkins told the court that he has been in chemical dependency treatment since October and admitted that he was using marijuana on the night of the murder. He outlined that he wants to complete the youth program, obtain his high school diploma, work with his dad in the drywall business and attend Ridgewater College.
Before Jenkins had his turn to address the court, Warwick’s daughter, Cheri Ekbom, read her victim impact statement, noting that her family had sustained an “unimaginable loss” when their mother died, but that she couldn’t hate Jenkins, “because hating you would be a dishonor to my mom.”
She admonished the young man, and his parents, to make wise choices with their lives and to know that they can accomplish their goals and be admirable examples for others.
“You made choices to be influenced by a friend,” Ekbom said. “Know that you have what it takes in life to make wise choices.”
During his plea hearing in December, Jenkins admitted that he waited in a vehicle while Junkermeier allegedly entered Warwick’s home and stabbed and strangled her after making her write him a check from her bank account.
Junkermeier and Robert Warwick were indicted on first-degree murder charges in September for their roles in the killing of Warwick.
Court documents say that Robert Warwick was the alleged mastermind of the crime, motivated by a large amount of money he suspected was in his grandmother’s possession. The teens also allegedly returned to Lila Warwick’s home after the murder and stole a small safe and other items from the residence.
Both Junkermeier and Robert Warwick face the possibility of life in prison if convicted and both are currently held on $2 million bail in the Kandiyohi County Jail.
Junkermeier’s next hearing is scheduled for Wednesday and a three-week jury trial is set to begin on March 25.
No future hearings have been scheduled for Warwick, as District Judge David Mennis has taken under advisement a motion to suppress his statements to law enforcement.
Before Thompson handed down the sentence Monday, he noted that the Warwick murder case is one of the more tragic incidents he has encountered in more than 30 years.
“The real tragedy in society is that people think marijuana is a victimless crime,” Thompson said. “People in two states have bought that. Maybe they wouldn’t have bought it if they had known what happened here.”
The judge noted that Jenkins sat back and smoked more marijuana while his friend, Junkermeier, allegedly committed murder. “He (Jenkins) didn’t care, that’s what marijuana does to you,” the judge said.
Thompson also noted he was “very moved” by Ekbom’s statement of support and forgiveness to Jenkins and his family.
“She wants you to get better,” Thompson said. “That’s what our victim in this matter stood for, forgiveness and finding the good in people.”