At first glance, the facts just didn’t add up.
Steven Ferguson, a 20-year-old from a quaint, parkside street in Fox Chase, had no prior arrests and, according to a neighbor, came from a “wonderful” family.
He had steady work, too, as a parking valet at a posh Old City hotel, a job that supplied him with enough expendable income to own a car and take his buddies out on the town, hopping from bar to bar in the trendy neighborhood where he worked.
Ferguson was not the kind of person even a veteran Philadelphia homicide detective might normally suspect of taking part in the savage beating of a random stranger, then coldly bragging about the attack soon afterward.
But all of that was before a tipster helped police finger Ferguson and two other young men in connection with the Jan. 14 slaying of recent Temple University graduate Kevin Kless at Fourth and Chestnut streets. Authorities arrested the trio on Friday.
Ferguson, of the 1100 block of Solly Ave., and his co-defendants — Felix Carrillo, 23, of the 4800 block of N. Fairhill St. in Olney, and Kenneth Enriquiz-Santiago, 19, of the 3800 block of Dungan St. in Juniata — are now being held without bail at the city’s Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, charged with murdering the 23-year-old Kless as the victim’s girlfriend and the couple’s female friend watched helplessly in horror.
“There are no priors, no arrests in their past,” homicide Lt. Mark Deegan said of the three suspects. “It appears to be an anomaly.”
Murder suspects usually aren’t first-time offenders.
“It is a bit unique. It’s not rare, but it is unique,” Deegan said.
A witness after the fact provided detectives with their big break last Wednesday when he called to tell them that the alleged killers had proudly admitted to the fatal beating, which occurred just before 2:30 a.m. as lingering patrons exited the neighborhood’s many nightspots.
PARK RANGERS TRIED TO HELP
As rangers from the U.S. Park Service assigned to the nearby Independence National Park administered CPR to the unconscious and severely injured Kless, the suspects allegedly fled the scene in Ferguson’s car. They arrived at Ferguson’s workplace, the Sheraton Society Hill near Second and Walnut streets, soon after and reportedly told another valet about beating up a “white kid.”
The assault didn’t take very long, but all three suspects got in on the action with their fists and possibly their shoes, Deegan said. No weapons were used. Kless may have banged his head on the sidewalk as he was knocked to the ground.
At the time, the accused attackers didn’t know that Kless would die from blunt-force-type injuries almost 17 hours later at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. The New York state native and 2010 Temple grad was living on the 1600 block of Brown St. and reportedly had recently taken a job at a local insurance firm.
Based on eyewitness information, investigators believe that the motive for the attack may have been a simple misunderstanding between Kless and the suspects.
The victim and his companions had just left Lucy’s Hat Shop Restaurant and Lounge, about two blocks from the scene, and were attempting to hail a cab. One cabbie did stop and engaged in a brief conversation with Kless before abruptly driving away without the three potential fares.
As the cabbie pulled forward, Kless continued to speak to him in a raised voice.
The three suspects were sitting in Ferguson’s green Toyota immediately behind the cab. One of them may have directed comments at Kless’ two female companions. And as Kless spoke unflatteringly at the departing cab, the suspects may have assumed he was addressing them. So they jumped out of their car and jumped Kless, authorities claim.
A NIGHT OF HITTING THE BARS
According to Deegan, the three suspects had been to a few taprooms that night, too, despite two of them being younger than legal drinking age. It isn’t known if they presented fake identification to the bars.
Police have not disclosed any possible levels of intoxication of the suspects or the victim.
Based on information gleaned from the confidential informant and witnesses, along with video recovered from the National Park Service and several area businesses, police obtained arrest warrants for the suspects and served them on Friday.
In the early afternoon, they arrived at Ferguson’s home in several cars with blue lights flashing, but did not find him there. A neighbor contacted by the Northeast Times said that Ferguson did not live in the home with his parents and two younger siblings, although he visited them often in his green Toyota.
Deegan had no information about alternate addresses for Ferguson. Authorities captured him Friday night in a car-stop at Roosevelt Boulevard and Third Street. According to the homicide lieutenant, Ferguson knew the other defendants through relatives in their neighborhoods. His family moved to Solly Avenue about a year ago, a neighbor said.
According to city property tax records, Lisvette Aguayo is the registered owner of the brick twin home, which last sold in July 2010.
“They’re wonderful people. I feel so bad for them,” said the neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Nobody answered a knock at the door of the home on Monday afternoon. The door was decorated with a heart-shaped red floral wreath, while small shrubs and a potted plant adorned the stoop and front yard.
According to another neighbor, the block is home to several police officers and firefighters.
EMPLOYER SAD ABOUT EVENTS
A woman who answered the telephone at the Sheraton hotel on Monday referred all inquiries about Ferguson to Towne Park, a Maryland valet service contracted by the hotel.
Towne Park spokesman Kevin Gordon refused to comment directly about Ferguson’s employment history or what he may have been doing at the Sheraton on the night of the beating.
“He did work for us and we’re shocked, saddened and disappointed by it all,” Gordon said.
Deegan believes that the suspects met at the Sheraton in multiple cars, parked the other vehicle or vehicles in the hotel’s lot, then began bar-hopping in Ferguson’s car. After the beating, they returned to the hotel to retrieve the other car or cars.
Initial reports that there was a fourth suspect who remained inside the car during the beating were false, Deegan said, as was an early report that the suspects were in a red Mazda.
The homicide lieutenant credited the park rangers for their quick response to the scene, assisting Kless and calming witnesses in the moments before uniformed police arrived.
The rangers also supplied much of the video evidence in the first couple days of the investigation, as did several area businesses, while the Fraternal Order of Police and Citizens Crime Commission offered rewards of a combined $20,000 for the capture and/or conviction of the killers.
A preliminary hearing for the three defendants is scheduled for Feb. 8. ••EndFragment