‘Hug Your Kids': Family Releases Statement After Murder Charge Filed in Ind. Teens' Disappearance

The family of a northwest Indiana girl who went missing along with a teen boy late last month has released a statement after a 17-year-old was charged with murder in the case. 

"The family continues to grieve and appreciate privacy and space during this horribly tragic time," the statement read, in part. "The family appreciates the condolences, well wishes, and love that has been sent to them. Hug your kids, tell them you love them, and always cherish every moment you have with them."

A 17-year-old boy was charged with murder Monday in connection with the disappearance of 19-year-old Molley Lanham and 18-year-old Thomas Grill, prosecutors said. 

Connor Kerner, of Valparaiso, Indiana, was charged with two counts of murder in what is believed to be the deaths of Lanham of St. John and Grill of Cedar Lake, court records show. 

Lanham and Grill were last seen at around 12 p.m. on Feb. 25, St. John police said in a statement on Friday. 

Prosecutors say two anonymous witnesses told officers that Kerner killed Grill and Lanham, with one of the witnesses telling investigators the approximate location of the teens' bodies and vehicle. 

Prosecutors allege that Kerner told one informant that he had killed Grill and Lanham in a drug deal gone wrong at his grandparents' garage in Hebron. They alleged Kerner killed Grill after Grill allegedly tried to rob him during the drug deal. He then brought Lanham, who had been waiting in a car outside, into the garage and shot her too, the informant told investigators. 

He later confessed to one of the informants that he "killed an innocent girl," prosecutors said. 

Investigators found the burned-out car in a wooded area on March 2, prosecutors said, and discovered "two heavily burnt bodies, skull fractures to one and an apparent gunshot wound to the head of the other" inside, believing the bodies to be those of Grill and Lanham. 

DNA was sent to the lab for processing, and autopsies were pending Monday, the Porter County sheriff's office said in a statement. 

Kerner was taken into custody at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday, according to the sheriff's office. It was not immediately clear if he had hired an attorney in the case. 

"Molley was a beautiful, loved daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, and friend," the Lanham family's statement read. "She will be deeply missed by everyone that knew her. Molley was so unapologetically herself. She was spunky, fashionable, and unique in every way imaginable. Molley will be remembered for her love and kindness for all, especially animals." 

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