Kelly, arraigned Thursday, is charged with beating Santiago in the 2100 block of Sewell Street in Camden on Jan. 19. Authorities have not disclosed what caused the dispute or the weapon used in the beating. Santiago, 45, died 10 days later at Capital Health Systems in Trenton after doctors declared him brain-dead.
As McBride spoke, the man who left yelled in the hallway, his voice audible in the courtroom.
"I plan to hire a private attorney," Kelly told the judge - his only full sentence other than yes or no and a few mumbles - during the 10-minute hearing.
Assistant Prosecutor Pete Crawford described the allegations: Santiago, on the ground, was beaten with an unknown object. Kelly, Crawford said, then grabbed Santiago, pulled him up in the air and hurled him to the ground, causing his head to strike the curb. "Body slam," Crawford called it.
Kelly shook his head back and forth and sighed several times as Crawford spoke.
"This is a very serious crime," Crawford said. Police found blood on Kelly's boots, Crawford said, and several people who witnessed the assault knew Kelly.
Crawford told the judge he would seek a minimum sentence of 30 years, possibly life.
Kelly, said Crawford, has five prior convictions, most of them drug-related. McBride granted Crawford's request to change Kelly's bail to $1 million cash only, instead of allowing bond.
Kelly was guided out of the courtroom by several court officers afterward. Three of Santiago's female family members embraced and comforted one another in the hallway. They declined to speak about the case.