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August 21, 2013

Slain Australian player mourned on 2 continents

DUNCAN, Okla. — With the simplest of motives — breaking up the boredom of an Oklahoma summer — three teenagers followed an Australian collegiate baseball player who was attending school in the U.S. and killed him with a shot to the back for “the fun of it,” police say.

As authorities prepared to charge the teens with first-degree murder Tuesday, family and friends on two continents mourned Christopher Lane, who gave up pursuit of an Australian football career to pursue his passion for baseball, an American pastime. His girlfriend tearfully laid a cross at a streetside memorial in Duncan, while half a world away, an impromptu memorial grew at the home plate he protected as a catcher on his youth team.

“We just thought we’d leave it,” Sarah Harper said as she visited the memorial on Duncan’s north, well-to-do side. “This is his final spot.”

Flowers, photos and an Australian flag already adorned the roadside in a tribute to the 22-year-old.

“I don’t know anybody who’s left this. It means a lot,” Harper said.

Lane played at East Central University in Ada, 85 miles east of Duncan, and had been visiting Harper and her parents after he and his girlfriend returned to the U.S. from Australia about a week ago.

Police Chief Dan Ford said Lane appeared to have been chosen at random, saying in a variety of media interviews since Friday’s killing that a 17-year-old suspect told officers that he and other boys ages 15 and 16 were bored and that they followed Lane and killed him for “the fun of it.”

A former deputy prime minister in Australia called for a tourism boycott of the United States while Lane’s former clubs sought ways to honor their former teammate.

His old team, Essendon, scheduled a memorial game for Sunday to raise funds for Lane’s parents as they worked to have their boy’s remains sent home. The club said it would deliver notes of condolences sent to its headquarters.

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