GRAND RAPIDS — The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction and sentence of Robin Root for the slaying of Janna Kelly in 2007, a murder that was solved years later with the help of Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office cold case detectives.


It was Root’s second time being convicted by a jury for killing Kelly, her former landlord.


Root was first convicted by a Kent County jury in 2015 but successfully appealed her conviction on the grounds that some of her confession to police was obtained in violation of her Miranda rights.


The Michigan Court of Appeals ordered a new trial for Root, and in 2018 she was re-tried, convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 to 50 years in prison.


Kelly, a 60-year-old Grand Rapids woman, was reported missing in December 2007, but her body was not found until March 2008 when a surveyor discovered her burnt remains on a property in Grand Haven Township.


Kelly had evicted Root from a duplex, and Root owed her $2,900 at the time of the murder.


Root admitted to taping Kelly’s mouth and hands with duct tape and leaving her in the trunk of her car overnight after an altercation between the two. Root then dumped the body on the Grand Haven Township property and burned it.


Root appealed her 2018 murder conviction, arguing that cellphone data used to elicit her confession was obtained without a search warrant and that those statements to police should have been kept out of court.


Cellphone data had showed that Root’s phone was in the area of Kelly’s home the night of Kelly’s death and that Root and Kelly’s phones both traveled to West Olive at the same time the next day.


Cellphone billing information also revealed that Root had called the Billy Graham prayer hotline soon after the killing. Police suspected she felt guilty after the crime.


The phone records were obtained through a “tower dump,” a list of every cellphone number that connected to a cell tower during a given period of time. The Court of Appeals said the information, which was obtained with a court order in 2009, was fair game based on procedure and precedent at the time.


Root also contested the way her prison sentence was calculated, specifically the finding that she had engaged in “egregious conduct designed to substantially increase the fear and anxiety a victim suffered during the offense.”


The appeals court found the fact that Root duct-taped Kelly’s mouth and hands and left her “trapped in the trunk, in the dark, throughout a cold December night,” constituted going above and beyond to increase the victim’s suffering.


Root is serving her prison sentence at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti.


— Contact reporter Carolyn Muyskens at cmuyskens@hollandsentinel.com and follow her on Twitter at @cjmuyskens.