Ac­cused killer of Play­boy model won’t face death penalty at trial

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - NEWS - By Carl Hessler Jr. [email protected]­tu­ry­media. com @mont­co­court­news on Twit­ter

NOR­RIS­TOWN >> The man ac­cused of the stran­gu­la­tion mur­der of a model in­side her Ard­more condo will not face the specter of death if he’s con­victed of the killing at his jury trial next year, ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tors.

Mont­gomery County pros­e­cu­tors re­vealed on Fri­day that they are not seek­ing the death penalty against Jonathan Wes­ley Harris in the event he’s con­victed of first-de­gree mur­der, which is an in­ten­tional killing, in con­nec­tion with the al­leged Aug. 22 stran­gu­la­tion death of Christina Rose Kraft, 36, in­side her res­i­dence in the 100 block of Si­b­ley Av­enue in the Ard­more sec­tion of Lower Me­rion.

Un­der state law, first-de­gree mur­der is pun­ish­able by ei­ther life im­pris­on­ment or death by lethal in­jec­tion.

With the death penalty off the ta­ble, Harris, 31, of John­stown, Cam­bria County, faces life im­pris­on­ment if he’s con­victed of the first-de­gree mur­der charge.

As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney Bri­anna Ring­wood said the de­ci­sion was made af­ter re­view­ing the facts of the case and the ap­pli­ca­ble law re­gard­ing the death penalty and af­ter con­sult­ing with the vic­tim’s fam­ily.

“Af­ter re­view­ing all of those cir­cum­stances and in view of the to­tal­ity of the cir­cum­stances, the de­ci­sion was made not to seek the death penalty in this case,” Ring­wood said.

Un­der state law, it’s at a for­mal ar­raign­ment hear­ing that pros­e­cu­tors must no­tify a judge about their in­ten­tions re­gard­ing the death penalty. Harris’s for­mal ar­raign­ment hear­ing was on Fri­day.

In or­der to ob­tain a death penalty, pros­e­cu­tors must show that ag­gra­vat­ing fac­tors – cir­cum­stances that make a killing more heinous – out­weigh any mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors – cir­cum­stances that fa­vor a de­fen­dant. Specif­i­cally, pros­e­cu­tors have 18 ag­gra­vat­ing fac­tors, un­der state law, which they can use to seek the death penalty.

Dur­ing the ar­raign­ment hear­ing be­fore Judge Wil­liam R. Car­pen­ter, Harris, wear­ing a red jail­house jump­suit, waived a for­mal read­ing of the spe­cific charges lodged against him. Harris, who faces charges of first-, sec­ond- and third­de­gree mur­der, rob­bery, theft, re­ceiv­ing stolen prop­erty and pos­sess­ing an in­stru­ment of crime in con­nec­tion with Kraft’s death, did not re­spond to a re­porter’s ques­tions as he was es­corted from the court­room by sher­iff’s deputies.

A con­vic­tion of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der, a killing com­mit­ted dur­ing the course of a felony such as rob­bery, car­ries a manda­tory sen­tence of life im­pris­on­ment. Third-de­gree mur­der, a killing com­mit­ted with mal­ice, car­ries a pos­si­ble max­i­mum sen­tence of 20-to-40-years in prison.

Harris, who is rep­re­sented by de­fense lawyers A. Charles Peruto Jr. and Scott Sig­man, re­mains in the county jail with­out bail pend­ing his trial.

Car­pen­ter sched­uled Harris’s trial to be­gin on May 6, 2019.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan about 9 p.m. Aug. 22 when Kraft’s boyfriend, who owned the condo at which Kraft resided, con­tacted Lower Me­rion po­lice to re­port his con­cern that

Af­ter get­ting a con­fir­ma­tion from Lower Me­rion that they had their man, he was taken into cus­tody and brought to Lower Me­rion Thurs­day be­fore be­ing charged.

Ac­cord­ing to court records, Mel­ton is sched­uled for a pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing later in De­cem­ber.

CARL HESSLER JR. - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Jonathan Wes­ley Harris, 31, is es­corted from a Mont­gomery County court­room af­ter he pled not guilty at his for­mal ar­raign­ment on charges in con­nec­tion with the al­leged Aug. 22 stran­gu­la­tion death of Christina Rose Kraft, 36, in­side her Ard­more res­i­dence.

Christina Rose Kraft

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