Prosecution Opens Case Vs. Peacock

WHEELING-The murder trial of Craig Tyler Peacock began shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday, following a lengthy closed-door jury selection process that carried over from Monday.

Peacock, 22, of Clewiston, Fla., is charged with murder in the Aug. 31 death of Wheeling Jesuit student Kevin Figaniak, 21, of Perkasie, Pa.

More than 75 prospective jurors were called into closed chambers individually during questioning before the final 12 and one alternate were seated.

In her opening statement before Ohio County Circuit Judge James Mazzone, Assistant Ohio County Prosecutor Shawn Turak said the state will prove that Peacock caused Figaniak’s death by kicking him in the head with a cowboy boot having a three-inch flat toe.

She said Peacock, Jarrett Chandler and Tyler Whitty, all working in the natural gas drilling industry, became involved in a fight with Figaniak and another Wheeling Jesuit student, Tyler Johnson, after one of the students made what Peacock perceived as an insulting remark.

She said all the men had been heavily drinking at Ye Olde Alpha and the Owl’s Nest bars when one of the students made a remark that a person does not need to go to school become a gas driller.

As the altercation continued, Figaniak pushed Chandler, who responded by punching Figaniak in the jaw and knocking him to the ground. This is where Peacock allegedly delivered the fatal kick.

Defense attorney Robert McCoid said the fight – and the tragic outcome – was a result of five young men who had too much to drink getting out of control.

He said testimony will show Peacock was fighting with Johnson when Whitty pulled him away and hurled him into the direction of where Figaniak was lying after being punched by Chandler. McCoid said Peacock’s foot brushed against Figaniak’s head, but did not cause the death.

Wheeling firefighter Dennis VanKirk, one of the first responders to the fight scene, presented his account of what happened that night, focusing on the position of Figaniak’s body when he arrived on the scene. He also authenticated a picture of Figaniak in his Wheeling Jesuit lacrosse jersey. The picture remained on the witness stand in view of the jury for the remainder of Tuesday’s testimony.

In pre-trial motions, Mazzone ruled in favor of a prosecution request that Figaniak’s picture can be shown to the jury, but he denied a motion by the state to have Figaniak’s mother authenticate the photo in court. McCoid argued that such a move would draw sympathy from the jury.

As part of its case, the state called Wheeling police Det. Dan Holmes to recall the facets of his investigation that led them to arrest Peacock and Chandler.

Turak also called Leroy Barnett, who presented police with surveillance video taken from a business called “Up On The Lane” on Edgington Lane near the location of the fight.

Jesse Skiba, who works at The Owl’s Nest, testified Peacock, Chandler and Whitty had been in the bar on the night of the fight.

The jury also watched a video deposition from Brea Young, a former bartender at Figaretti’s Restaurant, where the three had consumed four drinks each earlier in the evening before the fight.