OLATHE, Kan. — A white supremacist from Missouri was charged Tuesday with murder in the weekend slayings of three people outside two Jewish facilities.
Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., 73, also known as Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., appeared by video in a packed Johnson County courtroom. He was charged with capital murder and premeditated first-degree murder in connection with Sunday's shootings at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and at a nearby Jewish assisted living center, both in Overland Park.
If convicted of capital murder, he could face the death penalty. The local district attorney said he had not decided whether to seek it.
The suspect was brought in a wheelchair to a room at the jail for his video appearance before Johnson County District Judge Daniel Vokins. Cross looked haggard, with bushy salt-and-pepper hair and beard. He wore a dark green uniform unlike the traditional black-and-white stripes worn by others who appeared in court Tuesday.
He had been issued a special uniform, called a "suicide prevention smock," because of the nature of his case, a Johnson County Jail spokesman said. The smock is sleeveless and secured at the sides with Velcro.
Cross did not speak much during the hearing, but stared out of the screen with a slight scowl. His few words came in a gruff voice.
The judge asked whether he wanted to hire an attorney.
"I don't have the money," he said.
Bail was set at $10 million. His next court hearing is scheduled for April 24.
Michael McCulloch, public defender for the 10th Judicial District, told the judge he was appearing for Cross in lieu of the lawyer who would be assigned to represent him from the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit based in Topeka, which handles capital cases.
Cross did not enter a plea; that is expected at a later hearing.
McCulloch left court without comment, as did prosecutors. No survivors of the shooting or victims' relatives appeared to have attended the hearing.
Cross faces the capital murder charge in connection with the fatal shooting of Dr. Will Corporon, 69, and his grandson, Reat Underwood, 14, which occurred in rapid succession behind the Jewish Community Center. Reat was there to audition for a local "American Idol"-style competition for high school students. The premeditated murder count relates to the slaying of occupational therapist Terri LaManno, 53, outside Village Shalom, where she planned to visit her elderly mother.
When arrested, Cross shouted, "Heil Hitler!"
Kansas does not have a state hate-crime law. Federal prosecutors are investigating potential federal hate-crime charges, which can be punishable by death if the crime includes certain aggravating factors.
Cross, better known as Miller, has a four-decade career of supporting white supremacist causes. He served as the former grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan; belonged to the Order, best known for assassinating a Denver talk-show host; and at one point threatened to assassinate the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, whom he considered a "racial enemy."
In the late 1980s, facing federal weapons and other charges, he testified against fellow white supremacists as part of a plea bargain and entered the federal witness protection program.
As Miller, he sought a U.S. Senate seat in 2010 from his home in the southern Missouri farm town of Aurora. He ran on a white supremacist platform, receiving just seven votes out of nearly 2 million cast.
Although none of the shooting victims was Jewish, prosecutors said the issue in bringing hate-crime charges was the suspect's intent, not whether he achieved his goal.
"We are far from having all the evidence," said Barry Grissom, U.S. attorney for the district of Kansas. But he added, "The evidence we have gathered today leads me to believe that we do have enough" to bring federal hate-crime charges.
The last death penalty case in Johnson County came in the early 2000s, and is still on appeal. The last inmates executed in Kansas were serial killers James Latham and George York in 1965.
Johnson County Dist. Atty. Steve Howe said he would decide whether to seek the death penalty after consulting victims' families.
"This is about making sure justice is done. This isn't about retribution. This is about seeking justice for the families," he said.
Howe said investigators did not think anyone else was involved in the attack. He declined to comment about an FBI search of a trailer near Cross' home in southern Missouri on Monday night. He also refused to comment about how Cross, a convicted felon, obtained the shotgun he is said to have used in the shooting. Nor would he say whether Cross would face gun charges. Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass has said Cross also may have had a handgun and an assault rifle.
Asked why he was charged as Cross rather than Miller — the name under which he owns property and is registered to vote — Howe said:
"Law enforcement at the time of the arrest believes that is the name — the appropriate name. It doesn't preclude us, if we think there's other aliases, to list that in an amended complaint. But as of now, we're proceeding under this name under the complaint we have."
Times staff writer Matt Pearce in Los Angeles contributed to this report.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times