Men accused of killing 5 NJ teens plead not guilty 

Two men pleaded not guilty Wednesday to burning five New Jersey teenagers to death in 1978 in one of the state's oldest and most notorious missing-persons cases.

Philander Hampton, 53, and Lee Evans, 56, appeared in court in Newark in front of several dozen relatives of the victims and entered the pleas through their attorneys. They are each charged with five counts of murder and one count of arson.

A judge continued bail for both men at $5 million each.

Prosecutors say the men thought the boys had stolen marijuana from one of them. Authorities believe they herded the boys at gunpoint into an abandoned building, restrained them and set the building on fire.

The house was destroyed in the blaze, as were houses on either side of it, acting Essex County prosecutor Robert Laurino said. The five bodies were never found, possibly because no one thought to look for remains in an unoccupied home. The boys were not reported missing until two days later.

Both men were questioned after the boys disappeared, but neither was charged. Evans passed a lie-detector test. A third suspect died in 2008.

Prosecutors say the break in the case came when a relative of one of the victims said Evans confessed to him 18 months ago.

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