VALPARAISO — A 12-day trial has been scheduled over a period of four weeks next year for 18-year-old Connor Kerner, who is charged with murdering two fellow young people from Lake County during what he said was a drug deal gone bad.
Kerner, who remains behind bars without bond, was in court Monday morning as Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford scheduled the trial to kick off March 31, which will be Kerner's 19th birthday.
The trial will then take place Tuesday through Thursday for up to four weeks if necessary, the judge said.
The courtroom was packed Monday with family members and supporters of both Kerner and the two deceased individuals — Thomas Grill Jr., 18, of Cedar Lake, and Molley R. Lanham, 19, of St. John.
Bradford scheduled pre-trial hearings Dec. 16 and March 2.
Kerner is accused of killing Grill and Lanham Feb. 25 in Kerner's grandparents' garage in Boone Township, 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 a 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.
Kerner is further accused of loading the two bodies into the trunk of the teens' Honda Civic following the killings along with various containers of flammable liquids and setting the vehicle on fire, police said.
He shared the news and details with an acquaintance before giving her a chilling warning: "Connor told (the confidential informant) that if she told anyone that he did this (the killings), he would kill her and her family," police said.
The young man has pleaded not guilty to the two counts of murder and felony counts of intimidation and arson.
Also on Monday, Bradford ordered the Porter County Sheriff's Department to release a 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee back to the Kerner family.
The family had hired an attorney to argue for the release, but Bradford granted it without a hearing after hearing from prosecutors that police were done processing the vehicle.
The vehicle was seized via a search warrant by police March 2, according to the family's motion.
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