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