Defense attorneys in the Kevin Kless murder case said Wednesday after a court hearing they think the deadly incident is a case of involuntary manslaughter rather than murder.
"This was a fight, there was no intent to kill," said defense attorney Larry Krasner, who represents defendant Kenneth Santiago.
Santiago, 19, of Juniata Park, Steven Ferguson, 20, of Fox Chase, and Felix Carrillo, 23, of Olney, are all being held without bail in Kless' death.
But Assistant District Attorney Brendan O'Malley said the three men charged with murder in the beating death of Kless on a Chestnut Street sidewalk in Old City in January had "ambushed" Kless, that the attack was "unprovoked" and is "certainly a murder case."
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Patrick F. Dugan continued the preliminary hearing until May 14 after defense attorneys requested a continuance to prepare written motions following three hours of testimony Wednesday. The judge will then determine the charges for trial.
Defense attorneys say they have evidence - which was not disclosed at Wednesday's hearing - that words were exchanged between Kless, 23, and the defendants before the attack.
They also said Kless had a blood alcohol level of .262, or more than three times the legal limit for driving in Pennsylvania. (Kless was not driving when he was attacked.)
Kless' girlfriend, Kerri Holland, calmly testified that she and Kless were walking arm-and-arm along Chestnut near 4th around 2:30 on Jan. 14 when two men approached them from behind.
"The next thing I know Kevin is ripped from my right arm," Holland said.
Holland testified that both Carillo and Santiago then began striking Kless on the sides of his head with "closed fists" multiple times as he attempted to fend off the blows.
She said the attack was followed by "a lull" of several seconds when a third man she couldn't identify walked up and delivered a single punch and Kless fell to the pavement with his face up.
O'Malley said the third man is Ferguson and he delivered the fatal blow. "Mr. Kless was dead before he hit the ground," the prosecutor said.
An assistant medical examiner testified the blow snapped Kless' head around, ripping an artery.
Homicide detective John McNamee testified Ferguson waived his Miranda rights and gave cops a 10-page statement on Jan. 20.
McNamee, reading from the statement, said Ferguson told cops he hit Kless a couple times. "I guess he lost consciousness and fell and I guess he hit his head. Then we left because it looked serious. I didn't expect the guy to die," Ferguson said, according to the statement.