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Boy, 17, charged with murder of 2 missing teens in NW Indiana

Thomas Grill (left) and Molley Lanham | St. John police

A 17-year-old boy has been charged with murder in the deaths of two teenagers who were reported missing last month from northwest Indiana.

Connor Kerner is charged with two felony counts of murder for the deaths of 18-year-old Molley Lanham and 19-year-old Thomas Grill, according to a statement from the Porter County sheriff’s office. He was ordered held without bond Monday after preliminary not guilty pleas were entered on his behalf.

Connor Kerner | Porter County sheriff’s office
Connor Kerner | Porter County sheriff’s office

Lanham and Grill were reported missing on Feb. 26, the sheriff’s office said. Lanham lived in St. John, Indiana, while Grill lived in Cedar Lake, Indiana.

Police in Cedar Lake received an anonymous tip on Saturday morning that Kerner had killed them, put their bodies in the Honda Civic they’d been driving and lit the car on fire in a field in rural Hebron, Indiana, according to the sheriff’s office.

Investigators located the burned-out car and found the remains of two people inside, the sheriff’s office said. While their identities have not been confirmed, “all evidence obtained at this point at the scene and through statements given” points to the bodies being those of Lanham and Grill.

DNA evidence is being sent to a lab for processing and the Porter County coroner’s office will conduct a forensic autopsy with medical records to identify the bodies.

Police say in an affidavit an informant told them Kerner said he shot and beat Grill when Grill tried to rob Kerner during the drug deal, then shot Lanham in the head.

Investigators got search warrants for Kerner’s Valparaiso home, as well as for a Hebron home where they believe the murders took place, according to the sheriff’s office. They found “substantial evidence” during both searches.

Kerner was arrested and booked into the Porter County Jail about 6:15 p.m. Saturday, according to the sheriff’s office. He is being held without bail.

Lanham’s family issued a statement Monday remembering her as “a beautiful, loved daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, and friend.”

“She will be deeply missed by everyone that knew her,” the statement said. “Molley was so unapologetically herself. She was spunky, fashionable, and unique in every way imaginable. Molley will be remembered for her love and kindness for all, especially animals.”

Lanham’s family is making arrangements for her memorial service, which will be made public once they are finalized.

“The family continues to grieve and appreciate privacy and space during this horribly tragic time,” the statement said. “The family appreciates the condolences, well wishes, and love that has been sent to them.”

“Hug your kids, tell them you love them, and always cherish every moment you have with them,” the family added.

Contributing: AP