Jonathan Wesley Harris went to Christina Carlin-Kraft's apartment in Ardmore to sell her cocaine, according to a statement he gave to police. He left hours later in a panic after savagely beating her, wrapping her body in what detectives likened to "a cocoon" of bedding.
"I panicked and was scared. I didn't know what to do," Harris, 30, said in his statement, read Friday during his preliminary hearing in Ardmore District Court. "I knew I was going to be in trouble."
The statement provides new insight into the death of Carlin-Kraft, a 36-year-old budding model whose death Aug. 22 in her Main Line condo generated headlines nationwide. Despite his initial denials, Harris later confessed to strangling her at the height of a drug deal gone wrong.
According to the warrant filed in Harris' arrest, the two had met in Center City just hours earlier. There was no evidence they had known each other before.
Harris is charged with first-, second-, and third-degree murder, robbery, receiving stolen property, and related crimes. Carlin-Kraft's body was discovered by Lower Merion police conducting a wellness check at her second-floor unit in the Cambridge Square apartments. On Friday, Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Brianna Ringwood added more robbery counts and a kidnapping charge, the latter stemming from Harris' alleged attempts to restrain her during their fight.
Judge Michael P. Quinn held Harris on all charges and scheduled an arraignment for Nov. 28 in Montgomery County Court. Harris will remain in custody until then, denied bail due to the nature of his charges.
Harris' attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr., argued that the robbery charges should be dropped. Murder committed during a robbery carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Afterward, Peruto declined to speak with reporters, saying he would rather let his words in court stand in the case, which he said involved "so many intricate parts."
Carlin-Kraft's family, from South Jersey, said nothing as they exited the courthouse. They had packed the cramped courtroom, some trembling as they sobbed, others glaring at Harris, who sat silently in a red prison jumpsuit.
Harris, a native of Johnstown, had been released from State Correctional Institution Greene in July after serving a three-year sentence on robbery charges, court records show. Investigators on Friday said it was unclear why Harris was in Philadelphia, but they noted that he has a sister who lives in Southwest Philadelphia.
Harris was arrested by federal marshals Aug. 29 after he stepped off a bus in Pittsburgh. At the time, detectives noted at Friday's hearing, he was wearing clothing he had taken from Carlin-Kraft's apartment.
Police in Lower Merion were led to Harris by a tipster who recognized him from surveillance images released by the District Attorney's Office. The unidentified tipster said that he or she had received text messages from Harris just before 3 a.m. Aug. 22, two hours before police believe Carlin-Kraft was killed.
"I just met this sexy-ass white [expletive]," Harris allegedly texted the tipster, who turned the messages over to police. "I'm at her crib in Ardmore."
Surveillance footage in Philadelphia shows Harris and Carlin-Kraft meeting around 1 a.m. that day at Broad and Chestnut Streets, according to the warrant. They walked for a short period before entering a parked vehicle, and later took a ride-share vehicle back to her apartment.
Harris said he met Carlin-Kraft in Center City, agreeing to accompany her to her apartment to sell her an ounce of cocaine.
At her apartment, the two consumed some of the cocaine and drank heavily, finishing "about three bottles of wine," according to his statement, read in court by county Detective Todd Richard, who interviewed Harris in custody. After the two had consensual sex, Harris said in his account, Carlin-Kraft refused to pay for the narcotics, which he told police cost $1,200.
She hid the drugs, and a violent struggle ensued, during which Carlin-Kraft hit Harris with a glass bottle and he slapped her, the statement said. When Carlin-Kraft tried to flee, Harris threw her back onto the bed and punched her repeatedly in the face to stop her from screaming, according to his statement. At one point he restrained her, tying her hands with a pair of pajamas.
Harris, claiming to be nervous that someone would hear them, said he threatened to "burn the building down" to scare Carlin-Kraft into silence. She eventually relented, asking for her cell phone so she could call her father.
Instead, according to Harris' statement, she tried to call police, making it as far as the 9 in 911 before Harris slapped the phone out of her hands and started to choke her with his hands. When she stopped screaming, Harris searched the apartment, found his cocaine, put on clothes he found there, and fled, jumping over the balcony connected to her apartment.
At the time, he said, he believed Carlin-Kraft was still alive.
Additional surveillance footage from outside the Ardmore building allegedly shows Harris walking beneath the terrace connected to her unit just before 5:30 that morning, according to police. Detectives were able to follow his movements using other surveillance as he walked on Montgomery Avenue and then City Avenue, police said.
He told police that he took a bus to Philadelphia and encountered city police officers somewhere near John F. Kennedy Plaza. There, the officers said they stopped him because he was "aggressively pursuing females and not stopping for traffic," according to his statement. At the time, he told detectives, he was so high on marijuana, cocaine, and K2 that he was unable to comprehend what he was doing.
Police sources said Friday that Harris was involuntarily committed to a mental health facility by the officers, and was there while police searched for Carlin-Kraft's killer.
Her body was found on the evening of Aug. 22, after police were called to her apartment by Alexander Ciccotelli, her boyfriend. Ciccotelli, who owns the apartment, said he couldn't enter because the deadbolt had been closed from the inside.