Chesterton Tribune



Court document details charges in double murder

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Thomas Grill begged for his life before being bludgeoned to death and Molley Lanham was shot in the back of the head after being told her life would be spared if she said nothing about Grill’s slaying.

That, according to a confidential informant whose cooperation with authorities led to the discovery of two bodies in a burnt out car in rural Hebron on Saturday.

On Monday, Connor Ralland Kerner, 17, of 156 Kinsale in Center Township, was formally charged with the murder of Grill, 19, of Cedar Lake, and Lanham, 19, of St. John.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed by the Porter County Sheriff’s Police, at 8 a.m. Saturday a Cedar Lake Police detective advised the PCSP that the day before a person wishing to remain anonymous reported to the CLPD that Kerner had killed Grill and Lanham and that s/he knew the approximate location of the bodies.

At 9:20 a.m. Saturday arrangements were made for this source--called a confidential informant in the affidavit--to be interviewed by the PCSP. S/he gave this account:

While staying at Kerner’s home in Center Township on Monday, Feb. 25, s/he observed Kerner to be visibly upset. When s/he asked Kerner why, he said that “he had done something ‘really bad,’” that “I killed someone and I killed an innocent girl.” Kerner then specifically identified the two as “Thomas Grill” and his “girlfriend Molley.” At the time, the confidential informant believed Kerner to be joking but later that night, after seeing a social media posting reporting Grill and Lanham missing, s/he realized that “what Kerner was saying was real.”

Three days later, on Thursday, Feb. 28--the same day the confidential informant made her/his report to the CLPD--Kerner threatened to kill the confidential informant and her/his entire family if s/he went to the police. Kerner then told the confidential informant the following:

On Monday, Feb. 25, he and Grill--with Lanham remaining in their car, a black Honda Civic--met in the garage of Kerner’s grandparents in the 200 west block of C.R. 700S in Hebron to transact a drug deal. There “Grill tried to rob Kerner,” prompting Kerner to shoot at Grill, missing him twice, then finally hitting him and sending him to the ground. Wounded, Grill “was begging for his life,” but Kerner--out of bullets and “panicked”--proceeded to “beat (Grill) with a pipe wrench until he died.”

Kerner then went outside to the Civic and asked Lanham to come into the garage, where he showed her Grill’s body and told her that “he was going to let her go but if she told he would kill her.” Instead, as Lanham “turned to leave the garage, Kerner shot her in the head, killing her.”

Kerner next put the two bodies in the Civic’s trunk, loaded the car with three propane cylinders, four bottles of “tiki” fluid, and other flammable substances from his grandparents’ garage, then drove it to a wooded area east of C.R. 550S and C.R. 250W in Porter County and ignited the vehicle, walking back to his grandparents’ home.

Kerner told the confidential informant that his ultimate plan was to “rent a U-Haul truck later and somehow get the car in it and dump it in the Mississippi River.” Kerner added that “he had done this before and knew how to cover up a murder and get away with it.”

At an unspecified time on Saturday, PCSP investigators found the burnt out Honda Civic and, after obtaining a search warrant, found “two heavily burnt bodies, skull fractures to one and an apparent gunshot wound to the head of the other, and propane cylinders located inside the vehicle as well.”

Later on Saturday, when interviewed by investigators, Kerner’s grandfather advised that he and his wife had been out of town from Feb. 21 to Feb. 26, and that his grandson had a key to the house to care for the dog in their absence. Kerner’s grandfather also initially advised investigators that on returning home they had observed nothing missing or out of place or damaged.

At that point, Kerner’s grandparents were released while a search warrant at their residence was being executed. Twenty minutes later, however, Kerner’s grandfather returned to say that “some of his statement had been untruthful,” that “he lied initially because he was scared,” that “he was broken hearted,” and that he “then realized he had to tell police what he knew.”

In fact, Kerner’s grandfather advised, on returning home from vacation he found a hole in the garage wall which “appeared to have been patched poorly.” That hole he subsequently fixed. He also discovered that his grandson “painted what seemed to be random spots on the wall/garage wall” which earlier on Saturday he had painted over with the correct color.

Kerner’s grandfather noticed as well that the garage floor “had been all cleaned up with something,” that there appeared to be bullet holes in the bumper of his car and in the seat of his motorcycle, and that his 9mm handgun--which he’d left on a cooler in the garage--as well as two magazines and a gun-cleaning kit were missing.

Kerner’s grandfather then called Kerner to ask him if he had the handgun. Kerner told his grandfather that he did and that he’d planned “to do some target shooting” but that “he mishandled the gun and accidentally fired a shot in the garage.”

In addition, Kerner’s grandfather found a wrench in the garage which appeared to have “stain/hair” on it. That wrench he did not touch after returning from vacation.

Kerner--who has been waived into adult court--entered preliminary pleas of not guilty on Monday before Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford. He is being held without bond.


Posted 3/5/2019




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