WHEELING-Jarrett Chandler agreed Thursday to testify in the murder trial of Craig Tyler Peacock in exchange for a maximum of one year in jail for his role in the Sept. 1 death of Wheeling Jesuit University student Kevin Figaniak.
Circuit Judge David Sims sentenced Chandler to one year in jail and fined him $1,000 after the 24-year-old Winnfield, La., resident pleaded guilty to misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter. The sentence includes credit for 5 months served, meaning he likely will be free by early September.
According to police, Figaniak died as a result of injuries he suffered during a Labor Day weekend altercation with Chandler and Peacock, 22, of Clewiston, Fla., that began outside a local bar.
Photo by Fred Connors
Jarrett Chandler, left, pleads guilty to a misdemeanor charge of involuntary manslaughter Thursday while accompanied by his attorney, Donald Tennant.
Emotions ran high during the proceedings, with Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Turak and others visibly shaken as the two-hour hearing unfolded.
Defense attorney Donald Tennant called three witnesses to speak on Chandler's behalf, including Chandler's mother. Through their testimony, Sheila Chandler and two of her son's co-workers in the pipeline construction industry, Stanley Ingram and Cody Miller, attempted to convince Sims that Jarrett Chandler is a good, hard-working person who made a mistake.
Figaniak's family from the Philadelphia area - including parents Valerie and Tom Figaniak, brother T.J. Figaniak and sister Shannon - participated via video conference. Each cried openly as they relived the horror associated with losing a loved one.
"You not only murdered our son, you murdered us," Tom Figaniak said. "We just have not stopped breathing yet. My wife and I do not want to live anymore. We want to be with Kevin."
Valerie read several pages of a statement outlining her son's life and the devastation caused by his death. She recounted the night of her son's death from the time a WJU representative called to say he was injured, through the five-hour drive to Wheeling and then to a Pittsburgh hospital where he died.
Even though Figaniak's family consented to the plea agreement, Valerie Figaniak expressed her dissatisfaction.
"Kevin's life is worth more than one year," she said.
Turak said Figaniak and another WJU student were walking back to campus late Aug. 31 when they encountered Peacock, Chandler and a third man, who has not been charged.
She said an argument ensued, leading Peacock, Chandler and the other man to follow Figaniak and his friend onto Locust Avenue where a physical altercation occurred. During the scuffle, Chandler punched Figaniak in the face, causing him to fall into a grassy area. Peacock then allegedly kicked Figaniak in the side of the head, which police believe caused his death.
Turak pushed for the maximum sentence.
"Jarrett Chandler will get out someday and return to a normal life," she said. "He gets a do-over. Kevin Figaniak does not."
Turak said Chandler showed little emotion during the hearing.
"The only time he showed emotion is when his mother was testifying earlier about how he was affected by the death of his grandfather," she said.