By Carey Gillam
OVERLAND PARK, Kansas (Reuters) – The suspect in the killings of three people at two Jewish facilities near Kansas City over the weekend has been charged with capital murder and first-degree premeditated murder, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
The charges, filed in Johnson County, Kansas, were announced as U.S. prosecutors consider possible federal hate crimes charges against the suspect, Frazier Glenn Cross, whose ties to white supremacist groups are being examined.
Cross, 73, could be sentenced to death if convicted of killing a teenager and his grandfather outside a Jewish community center on Sunday, and life in prison for killing a woman visiting her mother at a nearby Jewish retirement home, said Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe.
Both facilities are in Overland Park, Kansas, an upscale suburb of Kansas City, Missouri.
Howe said the capital murder charge gives prosecutors the option of seeking the death penalty, but it was too early to make that decision. A conviction would carry a sentence of life without parole automatically.
“I don’t take that decision lightly,” Howe said.
The killing of two people during the same act makes it eligible as a capital crime, Howe said. The count of premeditated first-degree murder brings a sentence of up to life in prison with parole not considered for 25 years.
(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City and Carey Gillam in Overland Park; Editing by James Dalgleish and Gunna Dickson)