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Double slaying defendant now charged with burning victims' car, intimidating informant

Double slaying defendant now charged with burning victims' car, intimidating informant


VALPARAISO — Just hours after he allegedly killed a young man and woman, Valparaiso resident Connor Kerner shared the news and details with an acquaintance before giving her a chilling warning, according to police.

"Connor told (the confidential informant) that if she told anyone that he did this (the killings), he would kill her and her family," according to additional charges filed in the case.

Kerner has been charged with a new felony count of intimidation, according to court records.

A felony arson charge also was added, accusing Kerner of burning the 2012 Honda Civic used by the victims on the night of their Feb. 25 slayings, police said. Authorities said the victims were in the vehicle when it was lit on fire.

Kerner was already facing two counts of murder.

A status hearing in the case is scheduled for July 15 before Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford.

Kerner is accused of killing Thomas Grill Jr., 18, of Cedar Lake, and Molley R. Lanham, 19, of St. John, in what Kerner said was a drug deal gone bad in Kerner's grandparents' garage in Boone Township, according to court records.

The confidential informant told police she was at Kerner's home from 7-10:30 p.m. Feb. 25 and noticed he was "visibly upset," according to charging information.

"(The informant) asked what was wrong," according to court records. "Connor replied that he had done something 'really bad.' She asked him to specify, to which he replied, 'I killed someone, and I killed an innocent girl.'"

Kerner allegedly went on to identify his victims as Grill and Lanham, but the informant thought Kerner was joking until later noticing a missing persons report involving Grill and Lanham on social media, police said.

"(The informant) advised that she texted Kerner a picture of the missing persons report and he replied 'Jesus,'" according to court documents.

Kerner allegedly told the informant the details of the killings, and on Feb. 28, told her he would kill her and her family if she told anyone, according to court records.

Kerner, who was 17 at the time of the killings, reportedly told the informant he shot Grill after Grill tried to rob him during the drug deal.

"Grill fell to the ground and was begging for his life," according to police 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 Grill's body to Lanham, court records allege. Kerner warned Lanham not to say anything about the death, and as she turned to leave, Kerner shot her in the head, police said.

An informant told police Kerner said he loaded the two bodies into the trunk of the teens' Honda Civic about midnight following the killings and loaded the vehicle with various containers of flammable liquids.

Kerner drove the Civic to an area near the intersection of County Roads 550 South and 250 West in Porter Township and set the vehicle and bodies ablaze, the informant told police.

The bodies were discovered March 2 inside the burned-out car and were confirmed to be Grill and Lanham, authorities said.

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

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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