CARL JUNCTION, Mo. -- A high school's senior class president and two classmates charged with killing another student by bashing his skull in a possible cult sacrifice have stayed cool in jail and shown no remorse, authorities say.
About 100 high school students joined 300 other residents who poured into Immanuel Lutheran Church in nearby Joplin Thursday for the funeral of Steven Bryan Newberry, 19, who was slain Sunday and pitched into a 10-foot-deep abandoned well with the carcasses of two squirrels and a cat near the Kansas state line.
Newberry, his body weighted with a rock, was found Tuesday by police acting on a tip, and his three classmates at the 680-student Carl Junction High School then were charged with murdering the youth, who was described as a slow learner.
Ronald Clements, James Hardy and Theron Roland, all 17 and residents of the Carl Junction area, were being held in $100,000 bond each at the Jasper County Jail. Hardy is an honor student and senior class president.
'There's evidence to believe that cult activity was present,' said Larry Parrill, the Jasper County chief deputy sheriff.
'They're still cool,' he said of the suspects. 'That bothers me more than anything. I don't care how brutal a murder you've worked ... there's always some remorse. These boys have shown none that I've seen yet. It kind of makes you wonder what this new generation is thinking.'
After Newberry's body was found, the sheriff's office received many telephone calls from people reporting that they knew of devil worship and cult activities around the town, Parrill said.
The deputy said investigators believe all those involved in the killing have been charged, but added, 'We're still investigating rumors of the cult-like activity in this area.'
Raymond Dykens, principal of Carl Junction High School, dismissed the cult worship theory as rumor.
'I don't think there's any connection with that at all,' he said, refusing comment on the jailed students' behavior during school hours.
Investigators believe Newberry was killed before he was thrown into the well. He suffered 40 to 50 blows to the head, and baseball bats were found near the well, Parrill said.
Parrill declined to elaborate on the possible motive for the killing.
'We have to try these boys, and they still have constitutional rights,' he said. 'It's going to be brought out in the hearing. In order to see that they get a fair trial, I think that it is best that we don't get into that area.'
A first-degree murder conviction in Missouri carries a possible death sentence. The state last executed a death row inmate in 1965.
Newberry had attended schools in Denver, Joplin and Galena, Kan. A search for him was begun by his family when he failed to return home Sunday.
Explaining why Newberry was older than his classmates, Parrill said, 'He had some learning problems.'
Hardy and Clements are to appear in court Monday to make sure they have legal representation. Roland is to appear for a preliminary hearing Dec. 30 before Associate Jasper County Circuit Judge M. Keithley Williams.