GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - The Court of Appeals has overturned the first-degree murder conviction of Robin Lynn Root for the Dec. 2007 death of a West Michigan businesswoman.
Root was convicted of killing Janna Kelly, whose body was found in an Ottawa County blueberry field three months after she was last seen alive.
In a 19-page decision released Friday, Sept. 1, the Court of Appeals said portions of Root's April, 2015 videotaped statement to police should not have been used at trial. Portions of the interview occurred before Root was informed of her Miranda rights, “thus depriving her of her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination,’’ the three-judge panel wrote.
Assistant Ottawa County Prosecutor Lee Fisher, who handled the case, said he was surprised by the decision. Fisher said he plans to file an application for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court. The case was handled by the Ottawa County Prosecutor's Office, although the trial itself took place in Kent County.
Root, now 54, was arrested in April, 2015. She admitting to killing Kelly in December 2007 and dumping her body in a field in Ottawa County's Grand Haven Township, court documents show. She admitted to killing Kelly over nearly $3,000 in unpaid rent she owed the 60-year-old co-owner of Burr & Co. Insurance Agency.
Kelly was last seen alive Dec. 4, 2007 leaving the business located off of East Beltline Avenue south of Burton Street SE.
The following day, Kelly's purse and wallet were found at the corner of Burton and Kalamazoo Avenue SE and her missing car was located Dec. 6 on Plymouth Avenue SE just south of Burton.
After months of searching, a land surveyor found Kelly's body March 13, 2008 off of Pierce Street west of U.S. 31 in Ottawa County.
Root has a history of financial difficulties. In 2006, a mortgage company went to court to evict Root from a home on Woodcliff SE in Grand Rapids. Root then moved into a home Kelly owned on Woodmeadow Dr. SE. Within months, Root fell behind on rent. Kelly filed a landlord-tenant dispute in Grand Rapids District Court and a judge in March, 2007 ordered Root to pay Kelly $2,917.
Nine months later, Kelly disappeared after the two got together to discuss the rent issue. Root told police she pushed Kelly, causing her to fall and hit her head, court records show. Kelly was unconscious but still breathing when Root said she put Kelly in the trunk of Kelly's car.
When she checked the car the next morning, Kelly was dead. Root said she drove the car to Grand Haven Township, found vacant land and disposed of the body, according to court documents.
A Kent County jury deliberated about four hours before finding Root guilty of first-degree murder. She was sentenced in Dec. 2015 to mandatory life in prison without possibility of parole.
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