Northeast Times

Mystery suspect

Why did a 20-year-old man from Fox Chase al­legedly take part in the fatal beat­ing of a Temple Uni­versity grad in Old City?

Start­Frag­ment

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

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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