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Supremacist faces charges in Jewish killings

16 April 2014, 18:48

Overland Park - A white supremacist, charged in shootings that left three people dead at two Jewish community sites in suburban Kansas City, was brought into a video conference room in a wheelchair on Tuesday to make his first court appearance.

Wearing a dark, sleeveless anti-suicide smock, Frazier Glenn Cross stood under his own power to face the camera, crossing his arms and speaking only when answering routine questions from the judge in a Johnson County courtroom several miles away. He requested a court-appointed lawyer.

A Johnson County Sheriff's Office spokesperson declined to say on Tuesday why Cross was in a wheelchair. Prosecutors declined to answer questions about Cross' health on Monday.

The 73-year-old is being held on $10m bond and his next court appearance is scheduled for 24 April.

Physician William Lewis Corporon, aged 69, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, were shot and killed outside of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Kansas City. Both were Methodist.

Moments later, Terri LaManno, a 53-year-old Catholic occupational therapist and mother of two, was gunned down outside Village Shalom, a Jewish retirement complex where she was visiting her mother.

Ku Klux Klan

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said specific details about actions that led to the charges against Cross are contained in an affidavit, which under Kansas law is not considered public information.

The criminal complaint released on Tuesday describes the charges and includes a list of witnesses, but nothing else.

In Kansas, one of the narrow circumstances in which capital murder cases are pursued includes the intentional killing of more than one person in "the same act or transaction or in two or more acts or transactions connected together or constituting parts of a common scheme or course of conduct".

In this case, a single charge was applied to the deaths of Corporon and his grandson because the deaths occurred in a very short period of time as part of the same act, prosecutors said.

LaManno's death doesn't meet the standard for capital murder, Howe said, but he would not provide details or evidence to explain.

Federal prosecutors say there's enough evidence to warrant putting the case before a grand jury as a hate crime, but US attorney Barry Grissom said on Tuesday that federal charges were likely a week or more away.

Cross's state case would have to be resolved before he could be moved to a federal trial.

"Our system is more nimble, we can move a little bit quicker than the federal system. This isn't about retribution, this is about seeking justice", Howe said.

Cross is a Vietnam War veteran from southwest Missouri who founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in his native North Carolina and later the White Patriot Party.

Cross shouted "heil Hitler" at television cameras as he was arrested after Sunday's killings, which shocked the city on the eve of the Jewish Passover holiday and refocused attention on the nation's problem with race-related violence.

The Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights made a presentation on white supremacists at the Jewish community centre in August, the Kansas City, Missouri-based group's vice president Devin Burghart said.

That discussion included a description of Cross as an example of dangerous anti-Semitic figures in the region.

- AP


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