Accomplice 'joked' after thrill slay

NICK O’MALLEY
Last updated 12:24 21/08/2013
alleged oklahoma killers
STEPHEN COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE / Reuters

SLAYING SUSPECTS: American teenagers James Francis Edwards Jnr, Chancey Allen Luna and Michael Dewayne Jones are charged in the murder of Australian university student "for the fun of it."

Christopher Lane
Reuters
SHOT IN THE BACK: Christopher Lane.

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The youths looked terribly young and more stunned than scared when they were led individually into a packed courtroom in rural Oklahoma to face charges for the random and pointless murder of an Australian they had never met.

The prosecutor, Jason Hicks, repeated the terrible details already shared by police - that Christopher Lane was visiting his girlfriend, Sarah Parker, had jogged past the boys as they sat around outside a house on Friday afternoon, that they selected him as a target, followed him in a car and shot him about four minutes later.

Police said a witness called 911 when she saw Lane stagger across the road and fall.

Police used surveillance video from area businesses to identify the vehicle, which was found later at a church parking lot with the three suspects inside after a caller reported three youths with guns who were threatening to kill someone.

The vehicle's trunk contained a shotgun with the serial numbers sanded off, but the actual .22 caliber handgun used in the shooting has not been found, police said.

Chancey Allen Luna, 16, is accused being the one to pull the trigger. He was charged with first degree murder and was refused a bond before being lead away in his orange prison pyjamas, shackled hand and foot.

As he stood before the judge his mother, Judith Luna, sitting in the third row, was handed documents detailing her son's rights. Her hands shook as she gripped the papers and she sobbed as he was led away.

Two rows in front of her Cindy Harper, Sarah's mother, sat quietly throughout the proceedings.

James Francis Edwards, 15, is alleged to have been a passenger in the car and was also charged with first degree murder. Hicks said Edwards had been cold and callous throughout the proceedings, and that he even attended a court-ordered meeting at courthouse he was charged in minutes after the murder.

He said that as Edwards stood before officers at the charging counter he danced, and has since treated the matter as a "joke".

But Edward's court appointed lawyer, Jim Berry, told Fairfax that the young man takes the matter very seriously, and denies his attitude is callous. "He is very upset."

As he was led out of the room more sobbing could be heard throughout the small court.

Outside the court his father, James Edwards Snr, said he stood by his boy, an athlete who dreamed of one day competing in wrestling in the Olympic Games.

He said James was a happy boy who had not been in serious trouble before, and that he did not believe he could have been involved in a crime like this.

He said James did not grow up around guns. "He said to me 'Dad why don't we have guns around the house' and I said, 'because I don't need no guns'."

James's older sister said she believed racism was a factor in the charges, with the two African American boys receiving the tougher charges.

The oldest of the three accused is Michael Dewayne Jones, 17. He has been charged with accessory after the fact of first degree murder and a vehicle and firearm offense. He also faces what Hicks called "a long, long sentence" if convicted, but Hicks told the court he had cooperated with police and the district attorney. His bond was set at US$1 million (NZ$1.25 million).

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Due to the severity of the charges and the youth of the accused, not guilty pleas were automatically entered on their behalf.

The people of Duncan, an oil and farming town of about 25,000, known for little apart from being the birth place of the the company Halliburton, are shocked by Friday's murder. "I would say to our Australian friends that this is not Duncan, Oklahoma," said Hicks after the brief hearing, and that sentiment was echoed around Duncan.

He said some people were not scared to leave home.

Over the road from the grassy verge where Mr Lane died lives Roy Burke, the head football coach of the local middle school. He remembers Sarah Harper from when he taught her PE in Roy Rogers elementary school girl.

"You think things like this don't happen in your town, but obviously they happen anywhere," he said.

"Bad things happen to good people."

-Fairfax Media, Reuters

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