Retrial begins in Janna Kelly murder case

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Testimony began Tuesday in the second trial for the woman previously convicted of the 2007 murder of a Grand Rapids businesswoman.

Robin Root was convicted three years ago of murdering her landlord Janna Kelly, but an appeals court threw that conviction out. The case went to a second trial after Root rejected a plea deal from prosecutors.

Kelly went missing on Dec. 4, 2007. Her body was discovered three months later, but it was another seven years before charges were filed against Root.

On Tuesday, the jury briefly heard from a neighbor and friend who said he saw a volatile argument between Kelly and Root shortly before Kelly’s disappearance. Root apparently owed Kelly money.

“Shouting took place. Janna was shouting at Robin Root. Janna was upset. Janna wanted her money,” neighbor Dan Olson said.

In a 2007 police interview, Root told officers, “(Kelly) never blew up or was yelling at us or anything. She way very nice.”

She also told officers she felt bad about the debt, which still has not been paid, according to Kelly’s daughter, Dana Isola.

The jury also heard from the Grand Rapids detective investigating the case, who showed the jury blood found on the handle of the car that was abandoned near where Kelly lived. In 2014, cold case investigators realized Grand Rapids police had never tested that evidence, which led them to Root and a video confession in 2015.

In that 2015 interview, Root admitted to arguing with Kelly over debt owed, shoving her, accidentally knocking her unconscious and putting her body in the trunk of her car. She also admitted to putting duct tape over Kelly’s mouth and leaving her overnight before taking her body to a blueberry field and burning Kelly’s remains.

However, investigators didn’t read Root her Miranda rights until after the confession, which led the Michigan Court of Appeals to rule that the video shouldn’t have been allowed during the first trial and vacate the first-degree murder conviction.

Instead, prosecutors will have to use other evidence gathered in the investigation to get a second guilty conviction.

Part of the evidence presented to the jury Tuesday was an animation that showed that on the day Kelly went missing, her and Root’s cellphones took the same path to Ottawa County where the body was found.

The jury also heard from the medical examiner, who said the body found in Ottawa County was the victim of a homicide. They were shown graphic photos of the body at the scene.

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