Trial in death of WJU student to begin next week

WHEELING – A pre-trial hearing in the Craig Tyler Peacock murder case ended abruptly Monday after a two-hour closed-door session before 1st Judicial Circuit Judge James Mazzone.

Peacock, 22, of Clewiston, Fla., is charged with murder in the Aug. 31 death of Wheeling Jesuit University student Kevin Figaniak, 21, of Perkasie, Pa. He has been held at the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville under $1 million bond since the date of the alleged offense.

Prior to Monday’s hearing being closed to the public, Defense Attorney Robert McCoid and Assistant Ohio County Prosecutor Shawn Turak agreed to cut 25 names from the list of prospective jurors when the case opens June 9.

Mazzone ruled in favor of a prosecution request that a picture of Figaniak in his Wheeling Jesuit lacrosse uniform be shown to the jury. However, he did not make a decision on whether or not Figaniak’s mother will be permitted to testify before the jury to verify the picture is of her son and that he was a Wheeling Jesuit student.

McCoid has argued repeatedly that the prosecution wants to use the picture and Mrs. Figiniak’s testimony to draw sympathy from the jury. He said the defense is willing to stipulate to those two facts.

While Mazzone remained in chambers to consider the request for Figaniak’s mother’s testimony, a court bailiff cleared the court of all media and spectators not involved with the defense or prosecution. That led to two hours of argument involving raised voices that could heard in the hallway.

When the doors opened again, lawyers for both sides declined to comment on what had been discussed.

Last week, McCoid filed motions with the court calling for the murder indictment to be dismissed and grand jury transcripts be opened for review. In one motion, he contends the state gained the indictment by misleading the grand jury.

Court documents show Figaniak and another Wheeling Jesuit student were walking back to campus late Aug. 31 when they encountered Peacock, Jeff Chandler, 24, of Winnfield, La., and an unidentified third man, who has not been charged.

An argument ensued, leading Peacock, Chandler and the other man to follow Figaniak and his friend onto Locust Avenue where a fight occurred. During the scuffle, Chandler punched Figaniak in the face, causing him to fall. Peacock then allegedly kicked Figaniak in the side of the head, which police believe caused his death.

Chandler served seven months of a one-year sentence for his part in the death. As part of his plea deal, he agreed to testify for the prosecution in the Peacock case.