Two Arrested in Fatal Beating

WHEELING – Craig Tyler Peacock and Jarrett Mathis Chandler admitted to Wheeling police that they followed and fought with Kevin Figaniak and another man early Saturday after a “verbal altercation,” court documents state.

Peacock also admitted, according to court filings, that he “may have kicked the individual he was fighting with.”

The fight, which Wheeling police said took place shortly after 1:30 a.m. in the area of Locust Avenue and National Road, led to Figaniak’s death.

Both men are from out of the area – Peacock, 22, is from Clewiston, Fla., and Chandler, 24, is from Winnfield, La. – and may have been in the Ohio Valley working in the natural gas industry. Wheeling police, with assistance from the Ohio County Sheriff’s Department, arrested them shortly after midnight today at a Valley Grove campsite where natural gas employees are known to live.

Both are charged with second-degree murder in Figaniak’s death.

Figaniak was a 21-year-old Wheeling Jesuit University student. He died Sunday at a Pittsburgh hospital from injuries sustained in the fight.

Ohio County Magistrate Harry Radcliffe this morning arraigned both Peacock and Chandler, setting their bonds at $1 million in cash. They remained in the Northern Regional Jail at press time.

Preliminary hearings had not yet been scheduled for either suspect, nor did court records list attorneys for them.

In an interview with a Wheeling police detective, both suspects reportedly admitted to following Figaniak and another man, whose name has not been released, down Edgington Lane and onto Locust Avenue after a “verbal altercation.” The men got into a fight, and Peacock and Chandler both admitted to punching a man they did not know, and to seeing the other do the same. Peacock said he also “may have kicked the individual he was fighting with.”

Figaniak and the other victim were on the ground when Peacock and Chandler left the scene, according to court documents. The second victim reported he and Figaniak were attacked by three or four men.

“This investigation remains a very active one. Although additional charges may be forthcoming, no additional details will be released at this time,” Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger said.

An autopsy is scheduled for today in Morgantown. Although a full report could take some time, Schwertfeger said preliminary results should shed more light on exactly how Figaniak sustained the head trauma investigators believe caused his death. It also could reveal other injuries not apparent to investigators at the scene, he said.

Figaniak, a resident of Perkasie, Pa., about 35 miles north of Philadelphia, was a senior business major who played on WJU’s lacrosse and club hockey teams. Funeral are set for 10 a.m. Saturday in Perkasie.

The university, citing respect for students’ privacy, has limited media access to campus, but WJU President, the Rev. James Fleming, convened a news conference late this morning in his office.

“‘Why?’ was what people kept on asking,” Fleming recounted. “‘Why would this happen?’ There’s no good answer for why it would happen. There is evil in the world, and we saw the results of it first hand.”

Residents who live near the crime scene agree Figaniak’s death was a terrible tragedy. Their viewpoints differ, however, on how that tragedy has affected their perspective on their neighborhood.

Locust Avenue resident Carolyn Futey said she was surprised by such a crime so close to where she lives.

“This is supposedly a safe neighborhood, and a very well-kept neighborhood. … It should not have happened here,” she said.

But Futey believes the attack was an isolated incident and she said it hasn’t much changed her perspective on her surroundings.

“It’s still a safe neighborhood. … It’s a shame that somebody had to die, that’s all,” Futey said.

One woman and her husband, residents of Haddale Avenue who asked not to be identified, said their view of their neighborhood has become increasingly negative in recent years. The woman said she feels “heartsick” for Figaniak’s family, and believes police aren’t doing enough about problems that arise after nearby bars close for the night.

“It’s no wonder things happen. There’s just continuous trouble. … That’s a shame for this neighborhood, because we never used to have to deal with that,” she said.

The woman’s husband said he has a permit to carry concealed weapons, and he doesn’t hesitate to take his gun with him on an evening stroll through the neighborhood.

“If I get jumped, at least I’ve got a fighting chance,” he said.

Officials at other colleges reached out Monday to offer words of support to Figaniak’s family as well as Wheeling Jesuit.

“We are saddened by this tragedy and offer our sincere condolences to all members of the WJU campus community. Most especially, I would like to add my heartfelt sympathy to the Figaniak family on the loss of their son. We will keep WJU and the Figaniak family in our prayers during this difficult time,” said West Liberty University President Robin C. Capehart.

Bethany College President Scott Miller also expressed his sympathy Monday.

“Bethany College extends condolences to the family and friends of senior Kevin Michael Figaniak on his death, as well as to the entire Wheeling Jesuit University campus community. We are deeply saddened by this tragedy, and know that WJU President (the Rev.) James Fleming and the university are struggling to find answers. Bethany College sends thoughts of sympathy and prayers as they confront this tragic loss,” Miller said.