Kalispell Mother Pleads Not Guilty to Negligent Homicide

Takara Kaye Juntunen accused of negligent homicide a year after her boyfriend killed her 2-year-old son

By Justin Franz
Takara Juntunen appears in Flathead County District Court on June 16, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

A 23-year-old Kalispell woman pleaded not guilty to charges of negligent homicide and criminal possession of drugs a year after her boyfriend beat her 2-year-old son to death.

Takara Kaye Juntunen appeared in Flathead County District Court on June 16, two weeks after she was arrested on charges related to the 2015 death of Forrest Groshelle. The charges came just months after Juntunen’s ex-boyfriend, Brandon Walter Lee Newberry, was sentenced to 40 years at the Montana State Prison.

Juntunen appeared before Judge Heidi Ulbricht and is represented by attorney Steven Scott.

In court documents filed earlier this month, Deputy County Attorney Andrew Clegg accuses Juntunen of being responsible for her son’s death because she failed to seek medical attention for the boy in the days before he died, even though he showed signs of being abused.

On Feb. 17, 2015, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office responded to the report of an unresponsive child at a home in Evergreen. Upon arrival at the home they determined that the child was deceased. First responders also observed injuries to the child’s face, neck, arms, legs, back and buttocks.

An autopsy revealed that Groshelle had been hit multiple times in the abdomen, causing a laceration of the small intestine that slowly poisoned the boy. During an interview with law enforcement, Newberry told them that in the days before Groshelle’s death he had been “roughhousing” with the child.

Newberry had been dating Juntunen for three months at the time of the death and was living at her home in Evergreen. He frequently watched the child while Juntunen was at work.

In an interview with law enforcement, Juntunen said Groshelle had refused to eat and was “throwing up brown stuff” in the days before he died. She also said the boy had “turned purple” at one point and had a temperature of 101 the day before he died. Despite the fact that the boy was throwing up and had a high fever, Juntunen stated that she did not believe Groshelle’s symptoms were serious.

Witnesses later told law enforcement that Juntunen’s level of care and attention for Groshelle declined because of continued drug use. During the investigation, law enforcement found drug paraphernalia in the home.

In February 2016, Juntunen’s father contacted the sheriff’s office after discovering drug paraphernalia inside his daughter’s backpack. A residue on the paraphernalia was later determined to be methamphetamine. In an interview with law enforcement, Juntunen admitted to using meth on a daily basis, specifically on the days leading up to Groshelle’s death.

If convicted, Juntunen could face up to 25 years in prison and $100,000 in fines. A scheduling conference has been set for June 21.

Newberry was arrested and charged with deliberate homicide in February 2015. Earlier this year, Newberry pleaded Alford to an amended charge of mitigated deliberate homicide. An Alford plea occurs when a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges that the prosecution has enough evidence that, if presented to a jury, would likely result in a conviction. On April 19, Newberry was sentenced to 40 years in prison with no parole restrictions.