DUNCAN — Two teenagers were charged with first-degree murder Tuesday in the “thrill killing” of an East Central University baseball player from Australia in a case that has sparked international outrage. A third teenager is facing related felonies.
“This is not Duncan, Oklahoma. This is not Stephens County, Oklahoma. This is not something that we see happen here,” District Attorney Jason Hicks said after the three teens' first court appearance in the case.
Directing comments to “our friends in Australia,” Hicks said, “And I'm going to do everything I can to ensure that that we see these three thugs pay for what they did to Christopher Lane.”
James Francis Edwards Jr., 15, and Chancey Allen Luna, 16, were charged with first-degree murder. Michael Dewayne Jones, 17, was charged with use of a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon and accessory to first-degree murder after the fact.
Hicks said all three were in a car that pulled up behind Lane while he was jogging.
He said Luna fired a handgun from the backseat, while Jones drove and Edwards rode as a passenger.
Stephens County Special Judge Jerry Herberger denied bail for Luna and Edwards, and set the bail at $1 million for Jones. Luna and Edwards could face up to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Jones could face up to life in prison. Prosecutors can't seek the death penalty because of their young age.
About 75 people packed the courtroom's seats, and another two dozen stood along the walls as the hearing got underway. Lane's family filled most of the front row. Parents and family members of the three teenagers also attended the hearing.
The judge warned against any outbursts.
“Don't try me on that,” he said. “I do know emotions are running high.”
The defendants were brought into the courtroom individually, amid tight security, their hands and legs shackled.
They showed no emotion throughout the proceedings.
Hicks said the “senseless tragedy” has horrified this southwest Oklahoma community of 23,000 residents and caused some to reflect on the inexplicable nature of the crime.
Hicks said there was no connection between the victim and the suspects and that one of the teenagers said they chose to shoot Lane at random simply because they were bored.
“I can't imagine anything more appalling,” Hicks said.
He said the three youths followed Lane in Jones' 2003 Ford Focus after he ran past a home where they had gathered.
Luna shot him in the back with a .22-caliber revolver, the prosecutor said.
Two women stopped to help Lane. He was taken to a hospital where he later died.
Police used surveillance footage from a local business to identify a car thought to be involved in the shooting.
Police then located the teens in the vehicle after a caller reported that juveniles were at his house with guns.
According to a probable cause statement, Jones admitted to being involved in the shooting, but said he did not pull the trigger.
At almost the time of the killing, Edwards was scheduled to be at the courthouse to meet with the office of juvenile affairs to sign his terms of probation in an unrelated matter, Hicks said.
Hicks said Edwards was cold and callous throughout the investigation and when he was being processed into the Stephens County jail he danced at the booking desk.
“His demeanor was this whole thing was one big joke,” Hicks said. “He thinks it's funny.”
The case has drawn international media coverage and prompted condemnation in Australia where one national leader called on Australian tourists to boycott the U.S.
Former Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer was quoted in the Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper as saying such a move would send a stern message about the need for tighter gun control.
“I am deeply angry about this because of the callous attitude of the three teenagers, (but) it's a sign of the proliferation of guns on the ground in the USA,” said Fischer, who helped lead gun control reforms in Australia in 1996.
The three teenagers are next scheduled to appear in court in October.
Lane is the second East Central University student to suffer a violent death in the last eight months.
In December, 18-year-old Gennaro Sanchez was kidnapped and killed by a fellow freshman at the Ada school. In that case, prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Jerrod Murray, 18, of Asher. In an affidavit, an undersheriff wrote that Murray confessed to killing Sanchez to see how it would feel.
Ada is about 90 miles east of Duncan. Lane frequently visited Duncan, where his girlfriend lives.