Mt. Vernon Register-News

August 20, 2013

2 teens charged with random murder of college baseball player


CNHI News Service

DUNCAN, Okla. — Two Oklahoma teenagers were charged with first-degree murder Tuesday in the shooting death of college baseball player who police said became a random target because the youths were bored and decided to kill somebody.

They were identified as James Francis Edwards Jr., 15, and Chancey Allen Luna, 16, both of Duncan. Prosecutors said Luna fired the fatal shot that killed Christopher Lane, 22, a catcher for East Central University in Ada, Okla., while he was out jogging.

A 17-year-old companion, Michael Dewayne Jones, was charged with being an accessory to murder after the fact and with use of a motor vehicle in the discharge of a weapon.

Not guilty pleas were entered for all three, who although juveniles were arraigned one-by-one in adult court. The two murder defendants were ordered held without bail, and could face life in prison if convicted. Bond was set at $1 million for Jones. He faces a possible 45 years in prison.

District Attorney Jason Hicks described the teens as "thugs" who had committed a senseless crime unprecedented in this southern Oklahoma community known as the hometown of Hollywood producer and actor Ron Howard.

Prosecutors said Lane, a native of Australia, was gunned down by a single .22-caliber bullet to the back. He was in town to visit with his girlfriend and her family.

Police Chief Danny Ford said Lane became a random target when he passed the teens’ parked car.

"They saw Christopher go by, and one of them said, 'There's our target,'" said Ford, adding that Jones told authorities after the teens were arrested that "we were bored and didn't have anything to do, so we decided to kill somebody."

The teens were arrested Friday night in a church parking lot, standing next to a black Civic Honda seen leaving the scene of the shooting and recorded on security cameras atop local businesses.

The mother of the teen identified by prosecutors as the shooter said in an interview Monday that her son needs to be punished if he was involved "but I do believe in my heart that he did not pull the trigger."

Jennifer Luna said her son was kicked out of Duncan High School last year, but planned to return as a sophomore when classes resumed Tuesday. "He said, 'Mom, I'm ready to go back, I'm ready to do something with my life,'" said Luna, who described herself as a hard-working single mother.

"I just don't understand these kids, I really don't," she added. "I don't know why they had to prove a point; I just don't understand. I tell my kids all the time, 'Make something out of your lives because this is hard.'"

Luna said her heart goes out to the victim's Australian family. "I feel for them, I really do," she said. "And I apologize."

The victim's mother, in an interview with an Australian TV station, said if the teenage suspects "don't get what they deserve now and in the present, they will eternally. They're just evil people."

Peter Lane, the victim's father, said the killing was "heartless, and to try to understand it is a short way to insanity. Somebody we all love so much is not going to come home."

Sarah Harper, the victim's girlfriend, said she was finishing her shift at the nearby Duncan Golf & Tennis Club pro shop when her boyfriend was cut down. She called it a senseless killing, and posted this message on her Facebook page: "So much tragedy in our small community. Lord, heal us all."

Harper, a student at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond, said she met Christopher Lane in 2009 at a party at Redlands College in El Reno, Okla. She said he was attending East Central University on a baseball scholarship.

"Every minute with him was amazing," she said. "I cannot pick just one or even a few. Every moment was new and exciting."

Details for this story were provided by the Duncan, Okla., Banner.