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Burned bodies in murder investigation confirmed as missing Lake County teens

Burned bodies in murder investigation confirmed as missing Lake County teens

From the This week in local crime news: Man bitten, cut and dragged by SUV after would-be gun buyers robbed him, police say series

VALPARAISO — The two bodies found inside a burned-out car have been confirmed as the two missing Lake County teens believed to have been murdered by Connor Kerner, of Valparaiso, according to county police.

DNA evidence provided by immediate families members was used to identify the bodies as Thomas Grill Jr., 18, of Cedar Lake, and Molley R. Lanham, 19, of St. John, police said.

"The immediate family for both of the deceased have been notified by detectives," police said in a prepared statement. "The cause of death for Thomas Grill is still pending further medical examination."

Lanham died from a gunshot wound, according to preliminary autopsy results released last week.

The bodies were discovered March 2 after a confidential informant, who was reportedly with Kerner, 17, in the wake of the Feb. 25 killings, told police.

The informant told police Kerner said he loaded the two bodies into the trunk of the teens' Honda Civic around midnight the same day of the killings and loaded the vehicle with various containers of flammable liquids. He drove it to the area of 550 South and County Road 250 West in Porter Township and set the vehicles and bodies on fire, the informant told police.

Kerner reportedly told the informant he shot Grill after Grill tried to rob him during a drug deal in Kerner's grandparents' garage in Boone Township.

"Grill fell to the ground and was begging for his life," according to the records. "Kerner advised that he panicked due to being out of bullets in the gun. Kerner then beat him (Grill) with a pipe wrench until he died."

Kerner then showed Lanham Grill's body and as she turned to leave with a warning not to say anything, Kerner shot her in the head, police said.

Kerner is charged with two counts of murder and is being held without bond at the Porter County Jail.

He has hired defense attorney Mark Thiros, of Merrillville, and faces up to 65 years behind bars on each charge.

He has court dates of May 6, June 10 and July 15.

"Kerner's plan was to rent a U-haul truck later and somehow get the car in it and dump it in the Mississippi River," police said.

"Kerner told (the confidential informant) that he had done this before and knew how to cover up a murder and get away with it," according to charging documents.

According to the informant, Kerner said on the day of the killings he had done something "really bad," police said.

"I killed someone, and I killed an innocent girl," Kerner reportedly said.

Recent arrests booked into Porter County Jail


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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.

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