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Jewish center shootings: Supremacist faces capital murder charge

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Prosecutors announced murder charges Tuesday against the Missouri white supremacist suspected in the fatal shootings of three people outside a Jewish Community Center and retirement home in this Kansas City suburb. 

Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., 73, is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday afternoon to face a charge of capital murder in connection with the fatal shooting of Will Corporon, 69, and his grandson Reat Griffin Underwood, 14. He is also being charged with premeditated first degree murder in the shooting of Terri LaManno, 53.

Corporon and Griffin were gunned down in rapid succession Sunday outside the Jewish Community Center, and their deaths are considered one crime, prosecutors said. LaManno was shot soon after outside the nearby Village Shalom, a retirement facility. 

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.

“We are still actively investigating this case,” Howe said, adding that he would decide after consulting with victims’ families.

“This is about making sure justice is done. This isn’t about retribution. This is about seeking justice for the families,” Howe 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 police say was used in the shooting, or whether he would face charges related to possession of that gun.

Howe, who has never prosecuted a capital case, would not say whether Cross had requested an attorney or been assigned a public defender.

Kansas does not have a state hate crime law. The federal prosecutor, who joined Howe at Tuesday’s briefing, said he had yet to bring federal hate crime charges against Cross.

“We are far from having all the evidence,” said Barry Grissom, U.S. attorney for the district of Kansas. But he added that “the evidence we have gathered today leads me to believe that we do have enough” to bring federal hate crime charges.

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."

Cross has been profiled and monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and ran for political office several times on a white power platform.

The three shooting victims were not Jewish.  But the federal prosecutor said that does not matter when it comes to hate crime charges. He said the question is, “If I rob you or harm you, is my bias the cause of my harming you? That’s what qualifies as a federal hate crime.”

Those convicted on federal hate crime charges may also face the death penalty if the crime includes certain aggravating factors.

The last death penalty case in Johnson County was in the 1990s, and it is still on appeal. The last inmates executed in Kansas were serial killers George York and James Latham in 1965.

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Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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