Witnesses testify in Peacock murder trial
WHEELING – Jurors in the Craig Tyler Peacock murder trial heard testimony Wednesday from eyewitnesses to events surrounding the death of 21-year-old Wheeling Jesuit University student Kevin Figaniak, including a man who said he saw Figaniak’s head hit the pavement when his friend tried to pick him up.
Peacock, 22, of Clewiston, Fla., is charged with murder in Figaniak’s Sept. 1 death. Authorities believe Figaniak died from an alleged kick to the head from Peacock during a fight the night before.
Robert Hartly, who lives on Locust Avenue near where the altercation occurred, told the jury he was in bed during the early morning hours when he heard loud pounding on his door and repeated door bell ringing. He said he opened the door and heard Wheeling Jesuit student Tyler Johnson begging for help.
Hartly said Johnson yelled, “I need your help. I need your help.”
He said Johnson begged him to help carry Figaniak back to the university and not to call 911.
“He said, ‘I will pay you if you help me,” Hartly said.
Hartly said he became angry with Johnson because Johnson was so determined to move Figaniak without getting medical help.
“He tried to pick (Figaniak) up but he dropped him and (Figaniak’s) body fell sideways with his face landing in the grass,” Hartly said. “He tried to pick him up again but he dropped him again and his head fell backwards and struck the pavement.”
Hartly demonstrated with his hands that Figaniak’s head fell about 1 foot.
Two pipeline workers who accompanied Peacock to four area bars that night offered similar stories as to what had happened, including Jarrett Chandler – who pleaded guilty earlier this year to a charge of involuntary manslaughter – and Tyler Witty, who has not been charged with a crime.
They said they were leaving the Owl’s Nest on Edgington Lane when they confronted Figaniak and Johnson, who had just left Ye Old Alpha after a night of drinking.
Both men said Johnson asked where they went to school. They testified that when they said they were pipeliners, Johnson remarked that a person does not have to go to school to work in that occupation – a comment that offended Peacock.
The men said a verbal confrontation escalated as they walked along Edgington Lane and crossed National Road to an area of Locust Street in front of Hartly’s home. They said Figaniak pushed Chandler, who responded by punching Figaniak in the jaw and knocking him to the ground, after which Peacock delivered the kick police believe caused Figaniak’s death.
Chandler and Witty said they criticized Peacock for kicking Figaniak after he was already on the ground. Johnson said repeatedly that he did not remember many of the details of the confrontation but he did recall that Figaniak slipped out of his hands and his head struck the pavement as he tried to pick him up a second time.
Other witnesses Wednesday confirmed that all men involved had been drinking heavily throughout the evening.
Before testimony began Wednesday, Circuit Judge James Mazzone, a court stenographer and a bailiff entered the jury room to discuss a report that surfaced Tuesday about a woman opening the jury room door and speaking to the jurors. Mazzone said none of the jurors interacted with the woman and no conflict resulted.
“She was one of the prospective jurors who the attorneys struck in jury selection and she apparently felt some bond with the jurors who were selected,” Mazzone said. “She opened the door and offered a greeting to them.”