OVERLAND PARK, Kansas (Reuters) - The suspect in the killing of three people at two Jewish facilities near Kansas City over the weekend could face the death penalty on state murder charges filed Tuesday, prosecutors said.
Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, who also goes by the name Glenn Miller, likely will face federal charges that also could carry the death penalty in the killings Sunday afternoon in Overland Park, Kansas, an upscale suburb of Kansas City, Missouri.
Cross was known by law enforcement and human rights groups as a former senior member of the Ku Klux Klan movement and someone who has repeatedly expressed hatred for Jewish people. None of the people he is accused of killing were Jewish.
Prosecutors charged Cross on Tuesday in Johnson County, Kansas, with one count of capital murder in the fatal shooting of Reat Underwood, 14, and his grandfather William Corporon, 69, outside a Jewish community center on Sunday.
The Jewish Community Center where Underwood and Corporon were shot will hold an interfaith service of “unity and hope” on Thursday, and funeral services are set on Friday at the Methodist church the two attended.
Cross was also charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the shooting death of Terri LaManno, 53, outside the nearby Village Shalom Jewish retirement home. LaManno, who attends a Catholic church, was there visiting her mother.
Cross, who is being held on $10 million bond, told the court he had received a copy of the criminal complaint and requested court-appointed attorneys during an appearance via video that lasted less than two minutes on Tuesday afternoon.
“I don’t have the money,” Cross said.
Johnson County District Attorney Stephen Howe said the capital murder charge gives prosecutors the option of seeking the death penalty, but he had not yet determined if he will pursue that. A conviction would automatically carry a sentence of life without parole.
“I don’t take that decision lightly,” Howe said. “He’s committed some terrible crimes. This is about making sure justice is done.”
The count of premeditated first-degree murder brings a sentence of up to life in prison, with parole not considered for 25 years, Howe said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a leading anti-hate group, has been tracking Cross for years, they said.
The group said he was involved in creating an armed paramilitary organization in North Carolina 20 years ago and is a “raging anti-Semite” who has posted online commentary such as “No Jews, Just Right” along with calls to “exterminate the Jews.” He served time in prison on weapons charges and for making threats through the mail, the group said.
Kansas’ U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said it is the bias and belief of the suspect, not the identities of the victims, that determines whether or not federal hate-crime laws apply.
Grissom said federal charges, which also could carry the death penalty, were not likely to be filed for a week or more.
The Kansas City-area shootings came as the number of violent attacks on Jews nationally has grown in the last few years, even though non-violent attacks have decreased, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
“The shooting at the Kansas Jewish community centers is a sad and tragic event which reminds us where the spread of anti-Semitism and racism can lead,” Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement.
Violent assaults on Jewish individuals or those perceived to be Jewish rose to 31 in 2013, up from 17 in 2012, 19 in 2011 and 22 in 2010, according to the group, which prepares an annual audit of incidents.
Cross’ next court appearance was scheduled on April 24.
Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City and Carey Gillam in Overland Park; Editing by James Dalgleish and Gunna Dickson