Wheeling Jesuit University student's beating death began as argument

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WHEELING, W.Va. -- An argument that turned physical and ended with the death of a Wheeling Jesuit University student this weekend appears to have begun as a random encounter, Wheeling police said this afternoon.

Two men were arrested this morning in Ohio County outside Triadelphia, W.Va., and charged in the killing of Kevin M. Figaniak, 21, of Perkasie, Pa., which is between Allentown and Philadelphia.

Craig Tyler Peacock, 22, of Clewiston, Fla., and Jarrett Mathis Chandler, 24, of Winnfield, La., were arraigned this morning and are being held at the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville, W.Va., on $1 million cash bond, Wheeling police said.

Each man told police he and his friends followed two unknown men down Edgington Lane, through the intersection and onto Locust Avenue, according to a Wheeling police criminal complaint.

Mr. Peacock and Mr. Chandler both told police they "became involved in a physical altercation with a white male whom he did not know."

Mr. Peacock "specifically stated that he engaged in striking and 'may' have kicked the individual he was fighting with," police wrote in the compliant.

Mr. Chandler "specifically stated that he engaged in striking the individual he was fighting with," the complaint says.

Mr. Chandler said he saw at least one of his friends fighting with one of the men, and Mr. Peacock said he saw his friends fighting with both men, police wrote in the complaint.

Police are looking for at least one more man in his mid-20s, who was seen with the suspects that night.

"I don't believe there was a motive," 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.

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.

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.

Mr. Peacock and Mr. Chandler were arrested today near 6015 National Road in Ohio County, a campsite police said is often where workers in the oil and gas industry stay.

Both men were working in that field and had worked for the same employer at one point. Police here previously had no dealings with the pair and were not aware of prior records in their home states or elsewhere, the sergeant said.

In his statement, Chief Schwertfeger said "additional charges may be forthcoming."

"This investigation remains a very active one," he said in the release.

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.

Mr. Figaniak, a senior majoring in business, played on the university's varsity lacrosse team and was also a member of the school's club hockey team.

An autopsy is scheduled for today in Morgantown.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 and on Twitter: @borntolede. First Published September 3, 2013 7:30 AM


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