2 charged in killing of student from Bucks

Craig Peacock, of Clewiston, Fla.
Craig Peacock, of Clewiston, Fla.
Posted: September 05, 2013

Police in West Virginia believe alcohol was a factor, and they have charged two out-of-state gas workers with murder, but what set off the weekend confrontation that led to the death of a college student from Bucks County remained a mystery Tuesday.

The attack occurred early Saturday off the campus of Wheeling Jesuit University as the victim, senior Kevin Figaniak, 21, of Perkasie, and an identified companion were walking home from a bar.

"Everybody we have talked to, the one remaining victim and the two men arrested, have not been able to definitely give us what was said, what those words were," said Sgt. Gregg McKenzie of the Wheeling Police Department.

He added: "It's a fair assessment to say alcohol was involved."

Figaniak and his unidentified friend encountered Jarrett Chandler, 24, of Winnfield, La., and Craig Peacock, 22, of Clewiston, Fla., police said.

Chandler and Peacock told detectives that they "engaged in a verbal altercation with two unknown males" and then followed them along a street and through an intersection before a fight ensued, according to court documents.

Both men said they struck Figaniak, with Peacock admitting to kicking him as well, police said. Chandler, Peacock, and an unknown number of other friends then took off, leaving Figaniak and his friend lying on the ground.

Figaniak died at a Pittsburgh hospital. His friend suffered slight injuries.

McKenzie, the Wheeling sergeant, said police arrested Chandler and Peacock early Tuesday morning, tracking them down through surveillance video, interviews, and social media. He declined to elaborate on exactly how social media played a role.

Chandler and Peacock were charged with second-degree murder, which in West Virginia carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 to 40 years. Both men initialed court papers asking for court-appointed attorneys. Each remains in jail in lieu of $1 million cash bail.

By all appearances, the victim and the attackers lived in very different worlds.

Figaniak grew up in Upper Bucks County and played lacrosse and ice hockey at Pennridge High School. He continued to play lacrosse at the small Catholic college and majored in business.

"Kevin was an outstanding young man with a high level of energy and a very competitive nature," Thomas Creeden, the Pennridge principal, said in a statement. "Kevin's outlook on life was very positive. His teachers describe him as always upbeat and caring for his teammates and peers."

Tom Wyatt, Figaniak's high school lacrosse coach, added: "Throughout my coaching career I have had standout young men who had both the passion for the game and learning the lessons it had to teach. Kevin was one such young man."

Chandler and Peacock lived about five miles from the university in a campground that houses temporary workers in the state's booming hydraulic-fracturing industry. It is one of 14 in the Wheeling area that have sprouted up in recent years, according to Howard Gamble, administrator for the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department.

Police declined to name the campground, which is on National Road, where many of them are located.

Mike McCawley, chair of the department of occupational and environmental health sciences at West Virginia University, warned against stereotyping the gas workers.

"They really run the gamut," said McCawley, who has focused on the campgrounds from a public-health perspective. "Some people will have their families with them. And it can be quite modern with pop-up campers. There are some interesting people and some very nice people."

But he added: "You've got people who are away from home. And there's drinking and drug use to kind of fill the boredom. And there may be roughhousing because they're used to doing rough jobs."

Contract Ben Finley at 610-313-8118, bfinley@phillynews.com, or @Ben_Finley.

Inquirer staff writer John P. Martin contributed to this article.

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