WHEELING, W.Va. — An Ohio County jury found an out-of-work pipeliner not guilty Friday afternoon in the alleged murder of Wheeling Jesuit University student Kevin Figaniak.
The panel deliberated the murder charge against Craig Peacock for less than an hour before delivering its verdict to a stunned courtroom.
Figaniak was out with a friend at a bar in downtown Wheeling on Aug. 31, 2013, when he encountered Peacock and other natural gas pipeline workers. The groups eventually engaged in a street fight, during which Figaniak was punched and kicked in the head. He died less than 24 hours later.
Peacock, of Clearwater, Fla., testified in his own defense Thursday saying he was upset about disrespectful comments Figaniak and his friend made toward the pipeliners but never intended for anyone to die.
Ohio County prosecutors alleged Peacock wanted to fight with Figaniak and kicked him after he had fallen to the street. Defense attorneys said the tragic death was the result of what happens when young men drink too much and act like “tough guys.”
The jury had five choices including not guilty or guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.
Those in the courtroom gasped when the not-guilty verdict was read. The Figaniak family began crying and left the courtroom quickly. Peacock hugged his father and was released.
Figaniak was a lacrosse player at WJU.