Harris

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - LO­CAL NEWS -

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 Kraft had not an­swered any of his calls or text mes­sages. Kraft’s boyfriend re­ported he was at her build­ing but was un­able to gain ac­cess be­cause an in­te­rior se­cu­rity bolt was en­gaged, ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint.

When po­lice forced their way in­side the res­i­dence they dis­cov­ered Kraft, a na­tive of Mar­gate, N.J., who pre­vi­ously mod­eled in photo shoots for Play­boy, Van­ity Fair, Vic­to­ria’s Se­cret and Maxim, dead in her bed.

“In ad­di­tion, the pil­lows, sheets and com­forter sur­round­ing her body, as well as ar­eas of the bed­room car­pet and walls were sig­nif­i­cantly blood­stained,” county De­tec­tive Gre­gory Henry and Lower Me­rion De­tec­tive Ed­ward Sarama al­leged in the ar­rest af­fi­davit.

An au­topsy de­ter­mined Kraft died from lig­a­ture stran­gu­la­tion and she also suf­fered a frac­tured nose.

De­tec­tives ob­tained sur­veil­lance video from the Si­b­ley Av­enue area and de­ter­mined Kraft left the res-

idence alone at 1:10 a.m. Aug. 22 and was ob­served at 3:05 a.m. in a first-floor lobby re­turn­ing with a male, who en­tered the el­e­va­tor with her, ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint.

De­tec­tives al­leged the apart­ment’s se­cu­rity sys­tem in­di­cated a per­son ex­ited from the back door of the res­i­dence onto a ter­race around 5:19 a.m.

“Dur­ing this time a vi­o­lent strug­gle oc­curred in the apart­ment where Ms. Kraft was beaten, her nose was bro­ken and she was stran­gled to death,” Dis­trict At­tor­ney Kevin R. Steele pre­vi­ously al­leged, re­fer­ring to the two-hour pe­riod of time.

Video sur­veil­lance showed a per­son walk­ing be­neath Kraft’s condo ter­race at 5:25 a.m. and later walk­ing along Si­b­ley Av­enue to Church Street and later on Mont­gomery and City av­enues, ac­cord­ing to court papers.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion de­ter­mined a white Banana Repub­lic shirt and Kraft’s cell­phone, a de­signer hand­bag and Kraft’s house keys were miss­ing from the apart­ment. Town­ship po­lice even­tu­ally lo­cated the shirt, “which ap­peared to con­tain dried blood,” be­tween shrub­bery near Church Road and Si­b­ley Av­enue and Kraft’s phone in the area of Mont­gomery and Bryn Mawr av­enues dur­ing searches of the area on Aug. 25 and Aug. 27.

De­tec­tives also ob­tained in­for­ma­tion that Kraft used a Lyft car ser­vice at 1:11 a.m. Aug. 22 for a ride from her res­i­dence to the 1400 block of Chest­nut Street in Philadel­phia. The Lyft driver sub­se­quently told de­tec­tives Kraft re­quested to make a stop in the Manayunk sec­tion of Philadel­phia prior to be­ing dropped off at the Chest­nut Street lo­ca­tion.

Video sur­veil­lance from Chest­nut Street re­vealed that at 2 a.m. Kraft walked to the area of South Broad and Lo­cust streets and en­coun­tered a male, iden­ti­fied as Har­ris, and the pair con­tin­ued to walk the streets sur­round­ing South Broad and 13th streets, ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint. The pair was seen in the 1300 block of Lo­cust Street when they ap­peared to en­ter a ve­hi­cle, ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

Com­par­ing the var­i­ous video sur­veil­lance footage de­tec­tives al­leged the per­son seen with Kraft in Philadel­phia is the same per­son ob­served en­ter­ing Kraft’s apart­ment with her af­ter 3 a.m., ac­cord­ing to the ar­rest af­fi­davit.

Au­thor­i­ties re­leased the pho­to­graphs and video sur­veil­lance footage of the “per­son of in­ter­est” to the news me­dia on Aug. 27 and a day later a “con­cerned ci­ti­zen” con­tacted de­tec­tives and iden­ti­fied Har­ris as the per­son de­picted in the sur­veil­lance footage, court papers in­di­cate. The wit­ness, de­tec­tives al­leged, re­ceived text mes­sages from Har­ris around 2:40 a.m. Aug. 22 dur­ing which Har­ris wrote he was at a woman’s “crib in ard­more.”

Har­ris was ap­pre­hended sev­eral days later in Pitts­burgh af­ter he al­legedly fled from the Philadel­phia area af­ter the mur­der.

CARL HESSLER JR. - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

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

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