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Duncan, Oklahoma schools on alert after murder of Australian athlete

By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Public schools in Duncan, Oklahoma, are on heightened security alert on Wednesday, one day after charges were filed against three teenagers in what police said may have been the thrill killing of an Australian university student.

Duncan High School, located in a town of 24,000 about 80 miles south of Oklahoma City, was informed by police of anonymous threats on Tuesday night, according to schools superintendent Sherry Labyer in a message posted on the schools' website.

In a case that has gained international attention, Christopher Lane, 23, of Melbourne, was killed by a gunshot in the back on Friday as he was jogging in Duncan.

All Duncan public schools on Wednesday will have increased security, and all campuses will require students to stay on campus until a parent or guardian checks them out, Labyer said. If any parents prefer to keep their children at home Wednesday, absences for this reason will be excused, Labyer said.

"Please know that we are committed to taking all reasonable action to protect the well-being of our students," said Labyer.

A representative for Duncan High School declined to say if the three suspects attended that school, referring questions to police.

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 when he was shot, police said. He attended East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, where he was on a baseball scholarship.

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

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

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.

(Reporting by Heide Brandes in Oklahoma City; Additional reporting by Mary Wisniewski. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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