It is forever remembered as a tragedy that scars the Southwest Oklahoma soul.
Chris Lane, 22, was in Duncan with his girlfriend visiting her family before returning to East Central University in Ada where he was a scholarship player on the school’s baseball team. By many accounts, he had a potential future as a professional in the game he’d loved since boyhood. Two weeks shy of his 23rd birthday, he’d only been back in the U.S. for two days following a trip to Australia with his girlfriend, Sarah Harper.
While taking a jog northbound on Country Club Road, Lane was shot from behind after crossing Plato Road. With his earphone providing running music, investigators believe he never heard the fatal gunshot from a .22 caliber revolver. According to the State Medical Examiner, he died before he fell to the ground in the bucolic neighborhood near an elementary school.
Lane’s death set off a manhunt throughout the community. By evening, investigators would catch up with the three teenage suspects in the murder. They were arrested in the parking lot of an east Duncan church where they were in a confrontation with another teen. That teen’s father had called police because he believed the boys had a gun.
Chancey Luna, then 16, Michael Jones, then 17, and James Francis Edwards Jr., then 15, were taken into custody and charged with first-degree murder. No gun was found with them. But by then, investigators had enough information to hold them. It was later learned the teens had been sharing images of themselves with guns on social media. Investigators later said the night before the murder, they had been riding around outside the city limits and had shot and killed a donkey. Investigators claimed the teens had ideations of being members of the Rollin’ 90s Crips street gang.
Charged in Stephens County District Court as adults for the crime, it would be their preliminary hearing when details about what happened that day came to light. By then, Lane’s death had shocked, not only the Duncan community, but sent shockwaves overseas and into Australia. Due to the crime, the country’s prime minister issued a warning to his countrymen to avoid travel to Oklahoma.
Aussie journalists crowded in with local, state and national reporters to witness a moment pulled from a Law & Order script when Edwards offered testimony against his friends. It was also learned that his original charge had been changed to accessory after the fact. He would plead guilty and was sentenced to serve 25 years in prison.
According to his testimony, Edwards said Jones, who was driving, and Luna picked him up at a house to take him to a court date for a juvenile case. While en route, Edwards admitted he was rolling a marijuana blunt in the passenger seat when he said Jones swerved the car and Luna fired the gun from the back seat, killing Lane.
Jones drove to a nearby motel and Edwards said they hid the gun and ammunition under the hood of Jones’ car. Motel security video that was later played in court showed the three working in concert to hide the evidence.
Jones later told investigators that the shooting was the result of “boredom,” according to investigators.
The national spotlight shone on Duncan when a Vanity Fair reporter wrote a story that many in the community believed cast a negative light. An Australian documentary called “In Cold Blood – The Chris Lane” is available on YouTube and captures a lot of the drama from the time.
Jones later pleaded guilty in July 2015 to second-degree murder and was sentenced to serve life in prison. Now 24, he is housed at Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville. He has to serve over 38 years of his sentence before consideration for parole.
Luna went before a Stephens County jury in July 2015 and was found guilty of first-degree murder and was sentenced to serve life in prison without parole. After his original sentence was thrown out in 2018, he we underwent a sentencing trial but received his original sentence, life without parole.
Following the trial, Luna’s mother, Jennifer Luna, told The Constitution that she didn’t have faith in Duncan’s law enforcement system and that she believed her son had been railroaded.
Luna, now 23, is serving time at R.B. Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy. After his original sentence was thrown out in 2018, he we underwent a sentencing trial but received his original sentence, life without parole.
A fourth man, Oddessee Barnes, then 23, would later plead guilty to a felony count of accessory after first-degree murder, after admitting to police the teens had brought a .22 caliber revolver to his apartment the night of the killing. He said he threw it in tall grass near his apartment. The gun has never been recovered. He received a 25 year prison sentence with 13 years suspended.
In the end, it would be Edwards who found his way to freedom. Although sentenced to a maximum sentence of 25 years in jail, he received credit for time served and in 2018, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections allowed Edwards out on its GPS monitoring device program. Now 22, he was remanded to a sober living facility and currently checks in with an Oklahoma City office for probation.