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Police release preliminary autopsy results in double murder of Lake County teens
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Police release preliminary autopsy results in double murder of Lake County teens

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VALPARAISO — The cause of death has been released for one of two teens killed last week in what police are describing as a botched drug deal.

Molley Lanham died from a gunshot wound, according to preliminary autopsy results released by the Porter County Sheriff's Department on Thursday afternoon.

The cause of Thomas Grill's death is still under investigation, pending further medical examination, according to the release from Sgt. Jamie Erow.

The preliminary autopsy results have confirmed a male and female were inside a burned-out car found in a field outside of Hebron this past weekend.

Connor Kerner, 17, of Valparaiso, was charged with two counts of murder Monday in Grill's and Lanham's deaths. 

Toxicology results are also still pending. In regards to DNA, those results are estimated to be complete and available by the end of next week, Erow said.

While Kerner allegedly told a confidential informant he killed Lanham, 19, of St. John, and Grill, 18, of Cedar Lake, DNA testing is necessary to confirm their identities.

Kerner told the informant he shot Grill after Grill tried to rob him during a drug deal in the garage of Kerner's grandparents' home in Boone Township, according to court records.

"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." 

Lanham, who accompanied Grill, was shown Grill's body and told by Kerner that she could leave but would be killed if she told anyone, police said. 

"Kerner advised that when she turned to leave the garage, Kerner shot her in the head, killing her," according to charging documents. Police said a 9mm handgun and two magazines were missing from the home.

The two teens were 2018 graduates of Hanover Central High School — Lanham was a soccer and track athlete and Grill was involved in the building trades, according to a statement from Hanover Community Schools Superintendent Mary Tracy-MacAulay.

Kerner is reportedly a student at Valparaiso High School, but the school district would not confirm that.

Two murder charges were filed Monday morning against Kerner and preliminary pleas of not guilty were entered on his behalf during a short initial hearing conducted via a video conferencing call from the jail by Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford.

Kerner is being held without bond, as is standard for murder charges. He faces up to 65 years behind bars on each charge.

Recent arrests booked into Porter County Jail

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.

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