Norristown, PA — A Montgomery County judge ruled on March 8 that the alleged confession of the man accused of murdering Ardmore model Christina Carlin-Kraft will be heard by a jury at trial later this year.
Judge William R. Carpenter denied accused killer Jonathan Wesley Harris' request to suppress an alleged statement he gave to police detectives on August 29, 2018, in which Harris allegedly admitted to killing Carlin-Kraft in her home on August 22, 2018.
In this alleged statement, Harris reportedly says he killed Carlin-Kraft, 36, in what he suggested was a dispute over sex and cocaine. After his arrest, Harris allegedly told detectives that she thought having sex was sufficient for payment for the cocaine she acquired from Harris, but he still wanted the cash.
After hearing from the defense and the prosecution, Carpenter ruled that Harris was properly advised of his constitutional rights and treated fairly by detectives, and thus the statement was admissible.
“There was nothing about that process that was in any way improper. They treated the defendant appropriately. The police work here was proper,” Carpenter declared in his ruling.
The Crux of the Argument
The defense worked to get the confession thrown out by seeming to imply that Harris was suffering from mental health issues at the time of his interview with detectives and that the statement may not have been voluntary.
Assistant District Attorney Brianna Ringwood argued Harris’s statement was legally and properly obtained by investigators.
The state countered the defense's strategy with testimony from county Detective Todd Richard, who said that Harris was polite, articulate and attentive. The police detective affirmed that Harris was Mirandized and aware of his rights when Harris voluntarily agreed to speak to the police.
Richard described Harris as "completely responsive" during the interview, which he called a "completely normal interaction."
The History of the Case
Harris, 30, was arrested in August and accused of strangling Christina Carlin-Kraft. He pleaded not guilty in December 2018 to the first-degree murder charges.
The two later returned to her apartment in Ardmore.
A detective testified in October 2018 that Harris told him he was there to sell Kraft cocaine, but she refused to pay for the drugs and a fight ensued.
According to the arrest warrant for Harris, he and Kraft met in downtown Philadelphia just hours before her death in August. Police have not indicated they have any evidence that the two previously knew each other or had met before.
Kraft had an extensive career as a model. Her modeling profile lists photo shoots for Vanity Fair, Victoria's Secret, Playboy, and Maxim.
Possible Defense Strategy
While Harris' statements were ruled to be allowed into the trial, Defense lawyer A. Charles Peruto Jr. moved forward with what might be a possible defense strategy for Harris.
Peruto suggested that he doesn't think first-degree applies to the details of Harris' case.
"Certainly he's going to be punished," Peruto said. "He's not going to walk away from this, there's no question about that. There's certainly a crime here. This is just a level of culpability issue."
Peruto said that this case would be about what degree of crime happened, who caused what in the apartment and whether or not there was any intent to kill someone.
Since being arrested and charged, Harris has been held without bail. His hearing is tentatively scheduled to begin on May 6.
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