Old City murder suspects await ruling
Steven Ferguson didn’t think it was going to be “that serious” when his two friends hopped out of his car to confront Kevin Kless on an Old City sidewalk on Jan. 14.
But Ferguson’s decision to join his pals could end up haunting all three for the rest of their lives.
Ferguson, 20, of Fox Chase, allegedly confessed to sucker-punching Kless twice during the early-morning melee and watching as the recent Temple University graduate lost consciousness and fell to the pavement.
Kless, 23, a New York State native living on the 1600 block of Brown St., died that afternoon at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital as a result of severed arteries in his neck associated with blunt force trauma.
Ferguson, of the 1100 block of Solly Ave.; Felix Carrillo, 23, of the 4800 block of N. Fairhill St. in Olney; and Kenneth Enriquiz-Santiago, 20, of the 3800 block of Dungan St. in Juniata Park, are charged with murder, aggravated assault, conspiracy and simple assault.
Municipal Court Judge Patrick F. Dugan could order them to stand trial on all charges, some of them or none. He is expected to rule on May 14 after attorneys submit formal briefs and final oral arguments.
The defendants remain in jail without bail.
Defense attorneys requested the delay and argued that the slaying was unintended. Assistant District Attorney Brendan O’Malley opposed the delay, arguing that the April 4 testimony of an eyewitness, a city medical examiner and a homicide detective were enough to warrant a murder trial.
The beating occurred on the 400 block of Chestnut St. at about 2:30 a.m. Kless’ girlfriend, Kerri Holland, and their female friend witnessed the attack.
The attackers, the victim and Holland had all been drinking that night, according to testimony.
Holland testified that she and Kless were walking arm-in-arm on Chestnut Street when Kless tried to hail a cab. The cabbie stopped in front of them, but abruptly pulled away, prompting Kless to swear at the driver, Holland said.
Just then, Holland said, two unknown males — who she later identified as Ferguson’s co-defendants — jumped Kless and punched him repeatedly. Kless tried to deflect the blows with his arms, Holland said.
Holland stood behind Kless and tried to push the attackers away, but took a blow to the head and staggered backward, she said.
She never saw where the attackers came from and had no idea why they jumped Kless.
Under cross examination, Enriquiz-Santiago’s attorney, Lawrence Krasner, asked Holland, “Are you sure Kevin said nothing to these men?”
“Yes,” Holland replied.
“And are you sure [the attackers] said nothing flirtatious to you or your friend?” Krasner asked.
“Yes,” Holland replied.
A break in the violence — described by Holland as a “lull” — followed the initial flurry of punches. A few seconds later, however, a third man approached Kless and punched him in the head, Holland said. Kless fell to the ground unconscious. Holland, a former lifeguard, checked his pulse and detected none. She tried to resuscitate him with chest compressions. Moments later, rangers from Independence National Park arrived and administered CPR.
In the meantime, the alleged attackers fled in an unknown direction. Holland testified that she could not identify Ferguson as the third attacker.
Ferguson’s alleged confession to Philadelphia police painted a similar but slightly different version of events. Homicide Detective John McNamee read a transcript of the statement in court.
Ferguson told police that he and the co-defendants were riding in a car on Chestnut Street near Fourth. Ferguson was at the wheel.
One of the passengers spotted Kless’ group and “said something to the girls and [Kless] said something back,” Ferguson told police, according to McNamee. Ferguson said he didn’t hear the exchange clearly because his radio was playing.
One of the passengers told Ferguson to stop the car, so he did.
“I didn’t think to say no. I really didn’t think it was going to be that serious,” Ferguson allegedly told police.
Ferguson’s co-defendants then exited the vehicle and confronted Kless.
“At first, I thought it was a small confrontation, just guys bumping. Then I heard girls yelling. … I got out of my car and helped. I hit the guy. He lost consciousness and fell. He hit his head on the cement,” Ferguson said, according to McNamee.
“He was upright and I hit him. The guy, I’m assuming, went unconscious because he couldn’t break his fall. Then he hit the cement.”
Before hitting Kless, Ferguson observed that the physical violence had subsided momentarily.
“[Carrillo and Enriquiz-Santiago] were attempting to get the guy to continue fighting, but the girls were breaking it up,” Ferguson allegedly told police.
Seeing Kless on the ground, the three attackers fled.
Defense attorneys Scott Sigman for Carrillo, Stephen Patrizio for Ferguson and Krasner questioned Holland about the victim’s and her alcohol consumption that night.
Kless had been at The Field House, a nightclub at 11th and Filbert streets, before meeting Holland and her friends at Fado, at 15th and Locust streets, at about 11:30 p.m., Holland said. Kless did not appear drunk then, she said.
The couple stayed there for a drink, went to National Mechanics [Third and Market], stayed there for one drink and arrived at Lucy’s Top Hat [Second and Market] at about 1:35 a.m., Holland said.
Kless, Holland and the female friend left Lucy’s at 2 a.m. and walked toward Chestnut Street.
Assistant Medical Examiner Aaron Rosen testified that Kless’ blood-alcohol content was measured at .262 less than an hour after the beating.
In Ferguson’s confession, he allegedly told police that the defendants had been drinking at G Lounge, near 17th and Walnut streets, before the beating, McNamee said. Two of the defendants are not of legal drinking age.
Also, McNamee said, Ferguson disclosed that the defendants had been at Lucy’s Top Hat for “five or ten minutes” that night, but had never seen Kless or his group before confronting them on the street.
Holland said she had never seen the defendants before the beating.
Police arrested the three defendants separately on Jan. 20 after a getting a tip from Ferguson’s former co-worker who heard the defendants allegedly talking about the beating. ••