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Three Oklahoma boys charged in killing of Australian student

By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Three teenage boys were charged on Tuesday in the killing of an Australian university student in Oklahoma, in what police said might have been a thrill killing.

Christopher Lane, 23, of Melbourne, was found dead of a gunshot wound on Friday, according to police in Duncan, Oklahoma, about 80 miles south of Oklahoma City.

Charged with first-degree murder are Chancey Allen Luna, 16, and James Francis Edwards Jr., 15, according to the Stephens County District Attorney's office. Michael Dewayne Jones, 17, who allegedly drove the vehicle carrying the other suspects, was charged with use of a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon and accessory to murder after the fact, the office said.

Lane was out jogging during a visit to his girlfriend and her family in Duncan on Friday, when he was shot in the back, police said. He attended East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, where he was on a baseball scholarship.

According to police, Jones said that the teens decided to kill someone "for the fun of it."

Police said a witness called 911 when she saw Lane stagger across the road and fall.

According to police, Jones told them on Sunday that the three teenagers saw Lane jogging and decided he would be their target, and then followed him in their vehicle and shot Lane in the back.

Police used surveillance video from area businesses to identify the vehicle, which was found later at a church parking lot with the three suspects inside after a caller reported three youths with guns who were threatening to kill someone.

The vehicle's trunk contained a shotgun with the serial numbers sanded off, but the actual weapon used in the shooting has not been found, police said.

If convicted, Luna and Edwards face a possible sentence of life in prison without parole, according to court documents. Under a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, they cannot receive the death penalty because they were under 18 at the time of the alleged crime, according to David Slane, an Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney.

Lane's father, Peter Lane, called the killing "senseless" in an interview broadcast on CNN from Australia.

"There's not going to be any good coming out of this because it was so senseless," Lane said. "It happened, it's wrong and we're just trying to deal with it the best we can."

Duncan, the county seat of Stephens County, has a population of 23,287, according to the 2012 U.S. Census estimate.

In an interview on CNN television, Duncan Police Chief Danny Ford said the usually quiet "community is outraged. The community has some fear." Ford said. "I think they have some of the same questions that maybe folks in Australia have, and that's about how do these kids get guns. It's pretty simple, they steal them."

In a statement, ECU baseball coach Dino Rosato said Lane was a well-respected teammate.

"He was an absolute joy to coach," said Rosato. "He set a great example for all of his teammates, but more importantly for the younger players. He was a mature student-athlete who his teammates could look to for advice and support."

(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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