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. ••


You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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