3 arrested in slaying of Willmar church volunteer

Published 9:42 am Friday, August 2, 2013

WILLMAR — Three teenagers have been arrested in the slaying of a 79-year-old church volunteer and great-grandmother who was found dead earlier this week in her Willmar home, authorities said Thursday.

Kandiyohi County Sheriff Dan Hartog also said preliminary autopsy results show Lila Warwick had multiple stab wounds and neck injuries that were consistent with strangling. Warwick, who lived alone, was found Monday after authorities went to her home to check on her welfare.

“It’s good that we have people in custody in regards to who did this, and for the family and for the public,” Hartog said.

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Hartog said a 19-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy were arrested late Wednesday on suspicion of murder and burglary. Both are from Willmar and remained in custody Thursday pending formal charges. Hartog said the 19-year-old could be charged Friday morning.

The sheriff said a third person — a 17-year-old boy, also from Willmar — was arrested early Thursday afternoon.

Warwick was a volunteer at Redeemer Lutheran Church, where she helped with office duties and vacation Bible school. Deputies went to her house Monday after someone from the church requested a welfare check.

Warwick had eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Her daughter, Cheri Ekbom, said that authorities have categorized the case as a burglary, and she believes the two suspects did not know her mother. Ekbom said a detective told her “there could be some further arrests, but he didn’t go into any details.”

She added: “It’s good knowing that the two are in custody. We’re just trying to move on.”

Investigators do not believe the killing was random, Hartog said in a news release.