Police seek 3rd suspect in Wheeling Jesuit University student's fatal beating
September 3, 2013 8:45 PM
Craig Tyler Peacock
Jarrett Mathis Chandler
By Molly Born Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
WHEELING, W.Va. -- Police are looking for at least one more person in connection with the fatal beating of a Wheeling Jesuit University student last weekend.
An argument that turned physical early Saturday morning ultimately ended with the death of Kevin M. Figaniak, 21, of Perkasie, Pa., and the arrests of two men Tuesday in what police believe started as a random encounter.
Craig Tyler Peacock, 22, of Clewiston, Fla., and Jarrett Mathis Chandler, 24, of Winnfield, La., were charged with murder Tuesday morning and are being held at the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville, W.Va., on $1 million cash bond, Wheeling police said.
The two have no prior criminal record in Ohio County, W.Va.
In an interview, both Mr. Peacock and Mr. Chandler told police he and his friends followed two men they didn't know down Edgington Lane, through the intersection and onto Locust Avenue after having an argument with them, according to a Wheeling police criminal complaint.
Mr. Peacock and Mr. Chandler each said they struck a man during the incident, and Mr. Peacock said he also "may" have kicked the man he was fighting with, police wrote in the complaint.
Further, the complaint says, Mr. Chandler said he saw at least one of his friends fighting with the other man, and Mr. Peacock said he saw his friends fighting with both men.
"I don't believe there was a motive. I don't think they knew each other at all," Wheeling police Detective Sgt. Gregg McKenzie said.
Wheeling police said they went to Locust Avenue and National Road about 1:45 a.m. Saturday to investigate an assault. When they arrived, they found Mr. Figaniak lying unresponsive on the ground with "significant head trauma" and took him to Wheeling Hospital, according a statement released earlier by police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger.
After being taken to UPMC Presbyterian for further treatment, Mr. Figaniak died Sunday of injuries suffered in the beating, which police said occurred about a mile from the center of the Wheeling Jesuit campus. An autopsy was scheduled for Tuesday in Morgantown and results are expected today.
Sgt. McKenzie said Mr. Figaniak, and a man who was with him -- who suffered mild cuts and refused medical treatment -- were walking back to campus on a path commonly used by Wheeling Jesuit students.
The man, whose name police aren't releasing, reported that he and Mr. Figaniak were attacked by three or four men in their mid-20s, according to a Wheeling police press release.
There was no evidence of a robbery attempt, Sgt. McKenzie said. Alcohol was involved in the incident, the sergeant added, but he would not elaborate.
Chief Schwertfeger said "additional charges may be forthcoming."
Mr. Peacock and Mr. Chandler were arrested in Ohio County outside Triadelphia, W.Va., near 6015 National Road, an RV park police said is often where workers in the oil and gas industry stay. The two worked in that field and had been in the Wheeling area at least a year, police said.
The park is a well-maintained gravel lot along a busy stretch of road. Dozens of RVs, some from out of state, were parked in the lot, on either side of a large storage unit, with woods in the background.
Tina Brown, who has lived in the park about three months, said she saw the men move into the lot over Labor Day weekend. Other neighbors home on Tuesday afternoon either didn't want to comment or didn't know the suspects.
Detective Sgt. McKenzie said both had lived in the RV park for longer than just this past weekend -- he said he didn't know quite how long -- and Mr. Chandler moved into a new camper there in the past few days.
Video surveillance, social media and interviews with the two accused led police to name them as suspects. Sgt. McKenzie would not elaborate on the role of social media, citing the ongoing investigation.
A senior majoring in business, Mr. Figaniak also played on the university's varsity lacrosse team and was a member of the school's club hockey team.
Wheeling Jesuit freshmen Paige Plesich and Olivia Krock, both 18 and lacrosse team members from Columbus, said team players, many of whom went to the hospital to support Mr. Figaniak, planned to sign a stick and give it to his family.
"There's a lot of support here. It's like one big family," Ms. Krock said.
The campus community also collected $1,600 for Mr. Figaniak's family at a scheduled dance Saturday, a university spokeswoman said, and another student said a Mass was dedicated in his honor.
"We ask that you keep Kevin Figaniak's family and the WJU community in your prayers during this time of mourning," the university said in a statement on its website. "It is through this support that we draw the strength to cope with the loss of our fallen brother."