The three accused murderers in a spree of armed robberies and execution-style slayings that ended in a Kansas shootout last week were motivated solely by a desire for "money and no witnesses," lawmen interrogating them said today.
First-degree murder charges have been lodged against Daniel Remeta, 27, who has a long criminal record and is described as the ringleader; Lisa Dunn, 18, Remeta's girlfriend and a former high school student leader; and James C. Hunter, 33, a Missourian with several minor earlier scrapes with the law. A fourth suspect, Mark Walter, 18, was killed in the gunfire.
The three surviving suspects have been charged with the shooting deaths of two hostages abducted from a Kansas grain elevator Wednesday and with aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnaping and assault. Police say numerous other charges are likely to be lodged against them. They are being held on $5 million cash bail apiece, thought to be one of the highest in recent times.
The four are suspected by police of slaying four persons in a string of armed robberies on a route of roadside violence that began in Michigan three weeks ago and wandered through Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Texas and Oklahoma. Authorities are investigating the possibility that the four may have committed other crimes on their journey.
Three of the slayings occurred in northwestern Kansas Wednesday. The victims included two young workers at a grain elevator, who had families and six children between them. Anger against the suspects is running high in Kansas, authorities said.
Police said they had received numerous death threats at the rural jail where the trio was being held, and early this morning, moved the three to undisclosed jails elsewhere.
They hope to remove a bullet that lodged in the leg of a teen-age gas station attendant shot six times in a holdup in Waskom, Tex., Feb. 10. The attendant survived and has described her assailants to police.
Colby City Police Chief Mark Spray said, "The motive was money and no witnesses. That comes out in what they say." He said they were interested in "continued escape, and they had a total disregard for life. Money can't be neglected as some of the motive, but the shootings and killings -- why that's a totally different motive when you get to abduction and killing."
Authorities pieced together the episode in the following way:
It probably began Jan. 27, with a gas station robbery in Copemish, Mich., about 25 miles from Traverse City, Mich., where Dunn and Remeta lived. Dunn had been a model student in high school, and had attended college in Marquette, Mich., at the same time Remeta was finishing a prison term there on a criminal conviction.
Police said the pair headed for Florida accompanied by another man, whom they are seeking for questioning but declined to identify. In Florida, the second man left the group. Walter, from Sutton's Bay, Mich., on vacation in Florida, joined them. Like Dunn, he was the child of a middle-class family who had no history of trouble with the law.
Authorities pick up the trail on Feb. 10, when several persons robbed the gas station in Waskom, and told the young woman attendant to run for safety. When she did, she was shot in the legs, and then shot four more times in the abdomen. But she is recovering in a hospital in Shreveport, La. Authorities plan to try to retrieve the bullets for ballistics tests.
On Feb. 11, a roadside convenience store in Crawfordsville, Ark., was held up and the saleswoman shot to death. Authorities say the three headed for Wichita, Kan., arriving Feb. 12 or 13, where they were joined by Hunter.
On Wednesday, a Stuckey's restaurant on Interstate Highway 70 in Grainfield, Kan., was held up at midafternoon. Petty cash was taken from one register, and the franchise manager, Larry McFarland, was shot to death. About an hour later, Thomas County sheriff's deputy Ben Albright flagged down a suspicious car, but was shot twice in the chest before he could get out of his cruiser. Albright is recovering.
The assailants fled, and Albright radioed the alarm. Then, police say, the group fled to a nearby grain elevator, took two hostages and shot the manager, Maurice Christie, in the chest. He survived. But the hostages, Glenn Moore, 27, and Rick Schroeder, 29, were executed with shots to the head as they lay alongside the road. Police closed in a few minutes later, and in the ensuing shootout, Walter was slain, and Dunn and Remeta wounded