17-Year-Old Charged With Murder in Northwest Indiana Teens' Disappearance: Prosecutor

Connor Kerner, of Valparaiso, Indiana, was charged with two counts of murder in connection with the deaths of 19-year-old Molley Lanham and 18-year-old Thomas Grill

A 17-year-old boy was charged with murder Monday in connection with the disappearance of two teens from northwest Indiana, prosecutors said. 

Connor Kerner, of Valparaiso, Indiana, was charged with two counts of murder in connection with the deaths of 19-year-old Molley Lanham of St. John and 18-year-old Thomas 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 arrived at the Cedar Lake Police Department on Friday and told officers that Kerner killed Grill and Lanham, with one of the witnesses telling investigators the approximate location of the teens' bodies and vehicle. 

One of the witnesses returned to the police station at investigators' request on Saturday and gave a statement saying that while the witness - referred to in court documents as a confidential informant - was at Kerner's home the night of Feb. 25, Kerner was "visibly upset" and told the informant that "he had done something 'really bad,'" the prosecutors' charging statement says. 

When asked to specify, prosecutors said the informant told investigators that Kerner replied, "I killed someone and I killed an innocent girl," identifying them as Grill and Lanham. 

Prosecutors allege that Kerner told the informant that he had killed Grill and Lanham in his grandparents' garage in Hebron while his grandparents were out of town. 

Authorities say Kerner told the informant that Grill came to the house, driven by Lanham, "for a drug deal" and that Grill had tried to rob Kerner, at which point prosecutors allege Kerner shot Grill. 

Prosecutors say Kerner told the informant that he "panicked due to being out of bullets in the gun" and "then beat him with a pipe wrench until he died." 

Kerner told the informant that he went outside to find Lanham in the car and told her to come into the garage, where he showed her Grill's body and then "informed her he was going to let her go, but if she told, he would kill her," prosecutors allege. 

Authorities say the informant told them that when Lanham turned to leave, he then shot her in the head. 

The informant told investigators that Kerner said he then drove Lanham's car into the garage, loaded the bodies into the trunk and drove about two miles away, loading it with flammable substances before setting it on fire and walking back to his grandparents' home, prosecutors allege. 

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. 

Investigators interviewed Kerner's grandparents Gerald and Christy Dye, who confirmed they had been out of town on vacation, prosecutors said. Gerald Dye initially told detectives that nothing was out of place or damaged when they returned home, according to the charging documents filed in court, but about 20 minutes later, he said that statement was "untruthful." 

Gerald Dye told investigators that he saw a hole in the garage wall and repaired it, saw that the garage floor had been cleaned, and discovered what appeared to be bullet holes in the bumper of his car and the set of his motorcycle that weren't there when he left for vacation, prosecutors say. 

Prosecutors said Gerald Dye also told detectives that while he continued to check the garage, he found that his gun, two magazines and cleaning supplies were all missing. Dye said he called Kerner to ask if the teen had his gun, and Kerner said yes - at which point Gerald Dye went to retrieve the weapon, which his grandson said he had used for "target shooting," authorities allege. 

Gerald Dye told investigators that he noticed the gun was lighter and that he believed the magazine, which was full when he left, was missing rounds, court documents say. When he asked Kerner about the missing rounds, Gerald Dye told investigators that his grandson said he had "accidentally fired a shot in the garage," prosecutors say. 

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. 

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