Kless death called involuntary crime

Lawyers for the three accused men said there was a fight, but no intent to kill him.

Posted: April 05, 2012

Defense attorneys in the Kevin Kless murder case contended Wednesday after a court hearing that the deadly encounter was a case of involuntary manslaughter rather than murder.

"This was a fight. There was no intent to kill," said Larry Krasner, lawyer for defendant Kenneth Santiago.

Santiago, 19, of Juniata Park; Steven Ferguson, 20, of Fox Chase; and Felix Carrillo, 23, of Olney, are being held without bail in Kless' death.

But Assistant District Attorney Brendan O'Malley said that the three men charged with murder in the January beating death of Kless in Old City had "ambushed" the Temple University graduate, and that it was "certainly a murder case."

Common Pleas Court Judge Patrick F. Dugan continued the preliminary hearing until May 14 after defense attorneys requested a continuance to prepare written motions following three hours of testimony. The judge will then determine the charges for trial.

Defense attorneys say they have evidence that words were exchanged between Kless, 23, and the defendants before the attack.

They also said Kless had a blood-alcohol level of 0.262 percent, or more than three times the legal threshold for intoxication in Pennsylvania.

Kless' girlfriend, Kerri Holland, testified that she and Kless were walking arm-in-arm on Chestnut Street near Fourth Street about 2:30 a.m. Jan. 14 when two men approached them from behind.

Holland testified that Carrillo and Santiago began punching Kless' head. She said the attack was followed by "a lull" of several seconds before a third man she could not identify walked up and delivered a single punch, and Kless fell to the pavement.

O'Malley said the third man was Ferguson and he delivered the fatal blow. "Mr. Kless was dead before he hit the ground," O'Malley said.

Contact Michael Hinkelman at 215-854-2656 or hinkelm@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @MHinkelman.

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