Supremacist faces murder charges in Kansas deaths
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — 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 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 spokesman declined to say Tuesday why Cross was in a wheelchair. Prosecutors declined to answer questions about Cross’ health Monday.
The 73-year-old is being held on $10 million bond and his next court appearance is scheduled for April 24.
Physician William Lewis Corporon, 69, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Griffin Underwood, were shot and killed outside of the Jewish Community Center 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.
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 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 U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said Tuesday that federal charges were likely a week or more away. Cross’ 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 Passover 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 Center in August, the Kansas City, Mo.-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.
It wasn’t clear what, if any, steps were taken by the center to act on the information. Annette Fish, director of the “Day of Discovery” event during which the presentation was given, said she did not attend that session — one of 30 offered in what she called an educational program for the Jewish community.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that monitors the activities of known white supremacists, says Cross also went by the name Frazier Glenn Miller. During the early 1980s, Cross was “one of the more notorious white supremacists in the U.S.,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.
He was the target of a nationwide manhunt in 1987, and federal agents tracked him and three other men to a rural Missouri home stocked with hand grenades and automatic weapons. He was indicted on weapons charges and accused of plotting robberies and the assassination of the law center’s founder. He served three years in federal prison.
Cross also ran for the U.S. House in 2006 and the U.S. Senate in 2010 in Missouri, each time espousing a white-power platform.