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White supremacist in 'suicide prevention smock' when charged

OLATHE, Kan. —  A self-styled white supremacist from Missouri appeared by video in a packed courtroom on Tuesday and was charged with capital murder in the killings of three people outside two Jewish facilities. 

Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., 73, was charged with one count of capital murder and one count of premeditated first-degree murder in connection with the Sunday shooting at a Jewish Community Center and nearby Jewish retirement home.  

If Cross is convicted of capital murder, under Kansas law, he could face the death penalty.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said he had not decided Tuesday whether to seek the death penalty, saying it was too early.

Bearded and looking haggard, Cross appeared before Judge Daniel Vokins in Johnson County District Court wearing a dark green uniform unlike the traditional black and white stripes worn by other inmates.

Cross had been issued a special uniform, called a “suicide prevention smock,” that’s sleeveless and secured at the sides with velcro, according to a spokesman for the Johnson County Jail. Cross was issued the uniform based on the nature of his case, the spokesman said.

The accused did not speak much Tuesday. When he did, it was in a gruff voice, staring out with a slight scowl.

The judge asked if Cross wanted to hire an attorney.

“I don’t have the money,” he said.

Cross was being held on $10 million bond Tuesday. 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. Attorney Ronald Evans leads the unit, which is based in Topeka and handles capital cases.

Cross did not enter a plea Tuesday; that will happen at a later hearing.

McCulloch left court Tuesday without comment, as did prosecutors. No survivors of the shooting or victims’ relatives appeared to have attended the hearing.  

The capital murder charge filed against Cross is related to the fatal shooting of Will Corporon, 69, and his grandson Reat Underwood, 14, in rapid succession. The premeditated  murder count relates to the shooting of Terri LaManno, 53, soon after outside the nearby Village Shalom retirement home.

Cross 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 and at one point threatened to assassinate the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, whom he considered a "racial enemy." He ran for political office from his home in the southern Missouri farm town of Aurora based on a white supremacist platform, and aired his view to friends and neighbors.

Kansas does not have a state hate crime law. Federal prosecutors have said they are still investigating potential federal hate crime charges against Cross, and have enough evidence to file them.

Although none of the shooting victims were Jewish, prosecutors said the issue in bringing hate crime charges is the suspect’s intent, not whether he achieved his goal.


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