KSU student witnesses testify to knockout blow, kicks in 2009 murder case

By Dave O'Brien | staff writer Published:

Five former Kent State University students took the stand in Portage County Common Pleas Court in Ravenna on Friday and identified Adrian A. Barker as the man who knocked out KSU student Christopher Kernich during a fight on East Main Street in Kent early on the morning of on Nov. 15, 2009.

The witnesses testified that it was Barker, now 25, who "blind-sided" Kernich, 23, with a punch to the back of his head, knocking him unconscious before Barker and his friend, Ronald G. Kelly, stomped the motionless Kernich's head and upper body. Kernich died at Akron City Hospital less than a week later.

During cross-examination, defense attorneys John Q. Lewis, Jon Oebker and Roger Synenberg appeared to be pushing a theory that eyewitnesses misidentified Barker. By their lines of questioning, the defense theory appeared to be that it was Glenn P. Jefferson Jr. who knocked Kernich unconscious after accompanying Barker and Kelly to Kent that night.

Testimony has shown that Barker and Jefferson both were wearing white T-shirts that night and both men had short hair and similar lanky builds. However, numerous witnesses have said Barker, a light-skinned black male, was in a short sleeve, V-neck T-shirt. Jefferson, a white male, wore a long sleeve, crew neck thermal.

Asked by Assistant Portage County Prosecutor Tom Buchanan if there was "any question Adrian Barker is the one who blind-sided Mr. Kernich," witness Charles Johansen was adamant.

"No, sir, not in my mind," he said, testifying that he was 10 feet away from Barker and Kernich. "My story, from day one, has been pretty straightforward."

Kernich's roommate, Dave Clements, was walking home with Kernich, Bradley Chelko and Christopher Pataky when the altercation took place, he testified.

Jefferson's white Honda Civic almost struck the foursome as it pulled out of a nearby parking lot before pulling into a nearby driveway. As the foursome passed it again in a nearby driveway, Kelly got out, pushed Chelko up against Jefferson's car and punched him in the face, Clements recalled.

Kernich came to Chelko's aid, Clements testified, and he watched from 20 to 30 feet away as Barker "blind-sided" Kernich with a punch.

Barker "was running. Like a jog, it was pretty fast," Clements testified. The punch, he said, "had a lot of power behind it, like a roundhouse" and landed on the right side of Kernich's head. Kernich, who "didn't see it coming," was knocked out, Clements testified.

Chelko testified that after Kelly assaulted him, he watched from 10 feet away as Kernich was knocked out. Barker "took off from a dead sprint to my left side, cocked his arm all the way back, putting all his force into it, and hit Kernich in the side of the head," he told the jury.

Barker and Kelly then "started to kick (Kernich) in the head and chest area" multiple times, Chelko said. Kernich "didn't move at all," he testified.

Witnesses Megan Prescott and Ali Gantz were walking west toward downtown and stopped that morning to speak to Kernich, who was a friend, they testified. They testified they were present as Barker and Kelly scuffled with Kernich and his friends, then as Barker delivered the knockout punch.

Prescott testified that Barker and Kelly were shouting obscenities and acting "in a really aggressive manner." She further identified Barker by the shoes he was wearing that night, shoes seized by police and found to have blood on them.

"Those are the shoes that kicked Chris in the head," she said, breaking down in tears after identifying the footwear for Assistant Prosecutor Connie Lewandowski.

Prescott testified that Barker "was in a rage, he wanted more, he wanted to kick and kick and kick and wanted to see the result."

"It was sickening," she told Lewandowski. "It's sickening to be in the same room (as Barker) right now, to be honest with you."

Gantz testified the kicking "reminded me when people are playing kickball." She said she did not see Kelly deliver any kicks but clearly recalled Barker delivering kicks with "a great deal of force" to Kernich's upper body.

Barker is being retried after a legal technicality in his original 2010 trial resulted in an appeals court overturning his conviction. Kelly is serving 15-years-to-life in prison for Kernich's murder. Jefferson served prison time for obstructing justice.

The jury will hear several hours of testimony this morning, Enlow said.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1128 or dobrien@recordpub.com

Facebook: Dave O'Brien, Record-Courier

Twitter: @RCCrimeWatch

Related stories:

Kent State murder victim's friend testifies attack was 'like bloodlust' on first day of retrial:

http://www.recordpub.com/news%20local/2013/09/05/murder-victim-s-friend-testifies-attack-was-like-bloodlust-on-first-day-of-retrial

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