17-year-old from Valparaiso charged in murder of 2 missing teens

VALPARAISO, Ind. — Prosecutors in Indiana have charged a 17-year-old boy with murdering two missing teenagers.

Authorities said Connor Kerner, 17, of Valparaiso, murdered Molley Lanham, 19, and Thomas Grill Jr., 18, over an alleged drug deal that turned into a robbery attempt. The two had been missing since Feb. 25.

Thomas Grill (left), Molley Lanham (right)

Two murder charges were filed Monday morning against Kerner. He pleaded not guilty on Monday.

Kerner allegedly told a confidential police informant that he shot Grill during a drug deal in the garage of Kerner's grandparents' home in Boone Township. The grandparents were out of town.

Court documents said Kerner beat Grill to death with a pipe wrench and then shot his girlfriend, Lanham, in the head as she tried to get away.

According to court documents, Kerner told the informant, "I killed someone and I killed an innocent girl."

Kerner then allegedly loaded their bodies into the trunk of their car, drove it to South Porter County and set it on fire. Court papers said Kerner told the informant he had done this before and knew how to cover up a murder and get away with it.

The burned-out vehicle was discovered by the Porter County Sheriff’s Department Sunday morning. The CSI unit from Valparaiso assisted with the forensics investigation.

“It’s devastating for everyone involved. I mean, burned-out cars, 17-year-old potentially going to be charged with their murder, I mean what do you say? That’s terrible,” “Lisa Suroviak, a St. John resident, said.

Grill’s family did not respond to a request for a comment, but Lanham’s family issued the following statement:

“Molley was a beautiful, loved daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, and friend. She will be deeply missed by everyone that knew her. 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. Hug your kids, tell them you love them, and always cherish every moment you have with them.”

Both Lanham and Grill were 2018 graduates of Havover Central High School. The school’s superintendent said the following:

“We would like to ask that the Hanover community keep the families and friends of Molley Lanham and Thomas Grill in their thoughts and prayers. Both Molley and Thomas were 2018 graduates of Hanover Central High School and their families are an integral part of the Hanover community.”

The victim’s families have asked for privacy as the investigation continues. Meanwhile, Hanover Central High School officials have made counselors and local clergy available to anyone who needs to talk about the incident.

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