Mother of Slain Toddler to Plead Guilty to Negligent Homicide

Takara Juntunen is expected to appear at a change of plea hearing on Oct. 3

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 is expected to plead guilty to negligent homicide a year and a half after her boyfriend murdered her 2-year-old son.

Takara Kaye Juntunen signed a plea deal earlier this month wherein she admitted her decision to let Brandon Walter Lee Newberry care for her son in early 2015 led to Forrest Groshelle’s death. Newberry was convicted of mitigated deliberate homicide earlier this year and has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Juntunen is scheduled to appear at a change of plea hearing on Oct. 3.

Prosecutors are expected to recommend a 20-year sentence to the Department of Corrections with 15 years suspended. They will also recommend that Juntunen be treated for substance abuse.

A second charge of felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs will be dropped, according to the plea agreement.

In court documents filed earlier this year, Deputy County Attorney Andrew Clegg accused 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.

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.

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