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Renter charged in murder of landlord

Murder victim Janna Kelly

Murder victim Janna Kelly

Robin Root

Robin Root

A 52-year-old Kent County woman was arrested Monday, for the December 2007 murder of Janna Kelly, 60, of Grand Rapids.

Kelly, a Vice President at Burr & Company Insurance Agency, 3351 Claystone SE, just off the East Beltline (near Burton), was last seen leaving her job there on December 4, 2007, about 6:30 p.m. Co-workers became worried on December 5, 2007, when she didn’t report for work, but wondered if she had gone Christmas shopping. Later that afternoon, the company received a call from a nearby car wash on Burton Street that said they found her wallet there. Her purse and jacket were also found there in the dumpster. Her credit cards were still inside the wallet. Her car was discovered in the 2100 block of Plymouth Avenue, but no clues were found inside.

Kelly was missing for three months. Her body was found on March 13, 2008, in Grand Haven Township, Ottawa County.

According to Capt. Mark Bennett, of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff’s office detectives and investigators from the Grand Rapids Police Department talked to many individuals and ran down numerous tips and leads over the years. But in June 2014, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Team began a more intense review of this case.  Sheriff’s investigators were assisted by an investigator from the Grand Rapids Police Department.

“Many hours were spent looking over documentation and data from the initial time period and also re-interviewing people surrounding the case,” explained Bennett. “In addition, members of the Ottawa County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office have been involved in reviewing case information.”

On Monday, April 27, the Sheriff’s office arrested a former tenant of Kelly’s and charged her with open murder. Robin Root, 52, had rented a home near Kelly, and fell behind in rent. Kelly reportedly took her to court and was awarded $3,000 in March 2007.

Root told police she went to Kelly’s home the evening of December 4. She admitted she pushed Kelly, and she was knocked unconscious. Root said she put Kelly in Kelly’s car trunk and left her overnight. When she returned the next day and checked on her, Kelly was dead. So Root drove her car to the land in Grand Haven Township to dispose of her body.

It’s unknown whether Root had any accomplices. Capt. Bennett said that the investigation is still ongoing.


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