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August 21, 2013

Thrill killing befuddles small Oklahoma town

DUNCAN, Okla. — Prosecutors said they were bored teenagers who had been in trouble before but not for violent crime. One of them even calmly reported in to his juvenile probation office a half-hour after police said they randomly shot and killed a jogger “for the fun of it.”

No one ever suspected they would disrupt this small southern Oklahoma town of 24,000 known as the “buckle on the oil belt” and cause an unimagined international story of senseless death.

But they did. And now James Edwards Jr., 15, Chancey Allen Luna, 16, and Michael Dewayne Jones, 17, sit in the Stephens County Jail, awaiting their fate for what prosecutors said was the heartless drive-by slaying of Christopher Lane, 22, a college baseball player from Melbourne, Australia, out for his daily run.

Edwards and Luna were charged in court Tuesday with first-degree murder and face possible life sentences without parole. District Attorney Jason Hicks said Luna fired the fatal bullet from a .22-caliber pistol into the back of the unsuspecting Lane, who stumbled into a ditch and collapsed along the tree-lined road. Two motorists who drove by later phoned in 911 calls.

Jones, who police said drove the ambush car -- with Luna in the back seat and Edwards in the front passenger seat -- was only charged with being an accessory to murder after the fact and use of a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon. Prosecutors said he was the only one to cooperate with investigators. But they said he could still face many years in prison.

All three teens are considered juveniles under Oklahoma law and thus cannot be put to death. Their cases, however, will be tried in adult court. They pleaded not guilty at their initial court appearance.

Local authorities could not explain the thrill killing nature of the Lane murder. Research by criminologists into similar acts of violence has attributed motivation to perpetrators' need to feel empowered, to make a statement through a dramatic criminal act.

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