By Tony Rizzo, The Kansas City Star
OVERLAND PARK, Kansas — Prosecutors on Tuesday filed two types of murder charges against a 73-year-old avowed racist and anti-Semite in the shooting deaths of three people outside Jewish facilities in Overland Park.
Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., who is better known as F. Glenn Miller Jr., is charged with one count of capital murder in the killings of 69-year-old Overland Park doctor William Lewis Corporon and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood.
They were shot outside the Jewish Community Center where Reat was auditioning for a talent contest.
Miller is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Terri LaManno, 53, a Kansas City mother of three who was shot outside the Village Shalom senior living facility.
She had gone there to visit her mother.
A capital murder conviction carries a life sentence without parole unless prosecutors seek the death penalty, Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said. Under Kansas law, Howe doesn’t have to make a decision on seeking the death penalty until after a preliminary hearing, which could be several months away.
A first-degree murder conviction carries a life sentence with no parole possible for at least 25 years.
Miller, who was arrested about 20 minutes after the first shootings, is being held in lieu of a $10 million bond. The Aurora, Mo., resident made a very brief court appearance by video Tuesday afternoon from the Johnson County jail.
Asked if he could hire a lawyer or needed a public defender, he said, “I request — I don’t have the money.”
Magistrate Judge Dan Vokins appointed Ron Evans, head of the Kansas death-penalty defense team, to represent Miller.
During the hearing, Miller stood with arms crossed over his chest, holding a copy of the complaint in his hand.
He had arrived at the jail video room and left it in a wheelchair pushed by a sheriff’s deputy. He wore a tear-away jail uniform. According to jail records, he is being held in administrative segregation on suicide watch.
Vokins set Miller’s next hearing for 9:30 a.m. April 24, which will be a scheduling conference.
Though the killings happened at Jewish facilities, all three victims were Christians.
Howe announced the charges at a Tuesday morning news conference. He was accompanied by Barry Grissom, U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas, who said he was “comfortable” that his office can file additional federal hate crime charges, but he said he did not anticipate any federal charges “within the next week or so.”
“Before I make any decision, I want all the facts,” Grissom said.
Howe too, said that because the investigation is continuing, new evidence could result in additional state charges being filed.
Steve Hill, former U.S. attorney for western Missouri, said he liked the “smart” way Kansas authorities were handling the case by charging it first in state court. That allows agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to dig into how Miller obtained firearms.
Because Miller was convicted of a federal felony on weapons charges in the 1980s, he could not legally possess a firearm.
Should the facts warrant it, prosecutors could charge the case as a conspiracy, by identifying the firearms transfer as one of the necessary “overt acts,” according to Hill.
“I suspect FBI and ATF agents are working pretty darn hard on the conspiracy angle to see if anybody else is involved,” Hill said.
Howe and Grissom declined to talk about evidence in the case.
A federal hate-crimes conviction could potentially carry a death sentence, depending on what charges are filed and whether the Department of Justice decides to seek the death penalty — a decision that would be made in Washington, Grissom said.
One criteria that makes a case eligible for a federal death penalty is if a convicted felon uses a weapon in a hate crime, Grissom said.
Since Johnson County filed state charges before the filing of any federal charges, Miller will be tried in state court first, Howe said.
Howe noted that capital murder is the most serious charge a person can face in Kansas, which does not have a hate-crime charge. Motive is not necessary to prove murder in Kansas, he said.
Under Kansas law, the intentional and premeditated killing of more than one person “as a part of the same act or transaction or in two or more acts or transactions connected together or constituting parts of a common scheme or course of conduct” is one of the limited circumstances that capital murder applies.
Though two people were killed outside the Jewish Community Center, only one charge was filed in their deaths because the deaths occurred as part of the same act.
Howe said he would consult with members of the victims’ families before deciding whether to seek a death sentence.
“I don’t plan to make a knee-jerk decision on that,” he said. “I want all the facts.”
Aided by tips from witnesses, two Overland Park police officers spotted Miller inside the car he had driven away from the shooting scenes. The officers ordered Miller to surrender and he did without incident, said Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass. Several weapons were recovered, including a shotgun and handgun, Douglass said.
LaManno’s funeral is Thursday at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Kansas City. Funeral services for Corporon and Underwood will be Friday at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood.
An interfaith service of unity and hope is set for Thursday at the Jewish Community Center.
David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT