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White supremacist charged with Kansas murders

16 April 2014, 08:19

Overland Park - The suspect in the killings of three people at two Jewish facilities near Kansas City over the weekend has been charged with capital murder and first-degree premeditated murder on a state level, and federal charges are likely, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

The state charges, filed in Johnson County, Kansas, come as US prosecutors consider possible federal hate crimes charges against the suspect, Frazier Glenn Cross. Cross, who also goes by the name Frazier Glenn Miller and has been living in Aurora, Missouri, is known by law enforcement and human rights groups as a former senior member of the Ku Klux Klan movement and someone who has repeatedly expressed hatred for Jewish people.

Cross could be sentenced to death if convicted on the capital charge of killing a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather outside a Jewish community centre on Sunday. And he faces life in prison for the premeditated murder charge in the killing of a woman at a nearby Jewish retirement home just minutes after the first two victims were shot, said Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe.

Both facilities are in Overland Park, Kansas, an upscale suburb of Kansas City, Missouri.

Howe said the capital murder charge gives prosecutors the option of seeking the death penalty, but he had not yet determined if he will pursue that. A conviction would carry a sentence of life without parole automatically.

"I don't take that decision lightly," Howe said. "He's committed some terrible crimes. This is about making sure justice is done."

The count of premeditated first-degree murder brings a sentence of up to life in prison, with parole not considered for 25 years.

Cross, who is being held on $10m bond, is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Tuesday afternoon. Two public defenders have been assigned to represent him.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a leading anti-hate group, has tracked Cross for years, they said.

The group said he was involved in creating an armed paramilitary organisation in North Carolina 20 years ago and is a "raging anti-Semite" who has posted online commentaries such as "No Jews, Just Right" along with calls to "exterminate the Jews".

He served time in prison on weapons charges and for making threats through the mail, the group said.

None of the victims in Kansas was Jewish. The boy and his grandfather were members of an area Methodist church and the woman attended a Catholic church.

But Kansas' US Attorney Barry Grissom said that it is the bias and belief of the suspect, not the identities of the victims, that determines whether or not hate-crime laws apply.

Grissom said any federal charges in the case, which could also bring a death penalty, were not likely to be filed for a week or more.

Killed on Sunday were high-school student Reat Griffin Underwood, who was with his grandfather, William Corporon, 69, outside the Jewish Community Centre when they were shot. The teenager was at the centre to audition for a singing competition, according to his mother, Mindy Corporon Losen.

Both victims were shot in the head. The grandfather died at the scene and the boy died later at a hospital, police said.

The third victim was killed a little about 1.6km away, outside the Village Shalom retirement community.

Terri LaManno, 53, was making a regular visit to her mother at the retirement facility when she was shot, police said.

- Reuters

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