Murder victim to be memorialized at Wheeling Jesuit

WHEELING – Hours after two men were arrested and charged with murder in the death of 21-year-old Wheeling Jesuit University student Kevin Figaniak, WJU President the Rev. James Fleming announced a fund has been established to memorialize Figaniak.

Figaniak was found unresponsive after he and another man got into a fight with two others around 1:30 a.m. Saturday in the area of Locust Avenue and National Road. Figaniak died Sunday at a Pittsburgh hospital from injuries sustained in the altercation.

Police, with assistance from Ohio County sheriff’s deputies, arrested Craig Tyler Peacock and Jarrett Mathis Chandler around 12:15 a.m. Tuesday at a Valley Grove campsite frequented by employees of the natural gas industry.

Peacock, 22, of Clewiston, Fla., and Chandler, 24, of Winnfield, La., have been charged with second-degree murder. They remain in the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville, each in lieu of $1 million cash bond.

A preliminary hearing in Peacock’s case is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sept. 12. Chandler is scheduled to appear in court at 2 p.m. the same day. Court records did not list attorneys for either of them Tuesday.

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. His funeral is set for 10 a.m. Saturday in Perkasie.

The university, citing respect for students’ privacy, has limited media access to campus. But during a news conference in his office Tuesday, Fleming recalled the “difficult” moments when Figaniak’s teammates and fellow students gathered at the hospital.

“Other friends would wake up and realize this had happened that night, and they arrived over at the hospital,” he recounted. “And each time there was a wave of more grief and more tears and confusion.

“‘Why?’ was what people kept on asking,” Fleming said. “‘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.”

Figaniak’s parents have started a memorial fund in their son’s name, Fleming announced, and donations will go to build a memorial near the athletic field. The lacrosse team will be the first team to play on the new field this spring, and members will dedicate the season to Figaniak.

All Sunday Masses on campus were dedicated to Figaniak, as will all Masses for the rest of the week. Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston will preside over a 4:15 p.m. Thursday Mass, Fleming noted.

In an interview with a Wheeling police detective, both suspects reportedly admitted to following Figaniak and the other man, whose name has not been released, down Edgington Lane and onto Locust Avenue after a “verbal altercation,” court documents state.

The men got into a fight, and Peacock and Chandler both allegedly admitted to punching a man they did not know and to witnessing each other do the same. Peacock said he also “may have kicked the individual he was fighting with,” according to reports.

Figaniak and the other victim were on the ground when Peacock and Chandler left the scene. The second victim reported he and Figaniak were attacked by three or four men, although Peacock and Chandler have been the only two people arrested.

“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 in a statement released at 1:10 a.m. Tuesday.

An autopsy was performed on Figaniak’s body Tuesday morning in Morgantown.