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Five days into the re-trial of Adrian A. Barker, a former University of Akron student on trial for the second time on charges he murdered Kent State University student Christopher Kernich in November 2009, Barker's attorneys got to take a crack at questioning a man they have suggested is really to blame for knocking out the victim and contributing to his death: Glenn P. Jefferson Jr.
Wearing a dark suit and his light hair trimmed close, Jefferson, 25, of Mentor, was grilled by defense attorney John Q. Lewis as to his actions that night. Convicted of obstructing the police investigation into Kernich's murder in September 2010, Jefferson testified that he served one year in prison in that case.
Jefferson admitted under cross examination by Lewis that he lied to Kent police detectives when he told them that his roommate, Ronald G. Kelly, punched Kernich, a 23-year-old business major from the Dayton suburb of Fairborn.
"That's what you told the grand jury, when sworn to tell the truth, but now you're saying that's a lie?" Lewis asked.
"Yes, sir," Jefferson said, also denying he conformed his testimony to the theory of the crime put forth by Portage County Prosecutor's Office. Prosecutors "just wanted to know what my eyes saw," he testified.
The punch allegedly was landed prior to Barker dealing Kernich a knockout blow -- described by witnesses as a "blind-side" or "sucker punch" -- to the back of his head. Multiple eyewitnesses have testified that Barker and Kelly then stomped and kicked Kernich's head and upper body as he lay unconscious on East Main Street in Kent on Nov. 15, 2009. He died at Akron City Hospital six days later.
Jefferson has not been charged with assaulting Kernich, despite several witnesses, and Jefferson himself in a statement to police, saying he kicked Kernich while he was down. On Tuesday, Jefferson told Lewis he was mistaken and that he "kicked someone … behind my car, with red hair," a description that matches Kernich's friend, Bradley Chelko.
Witnesses to the incident "would be wrong if they said I kicked Mr. Kernich, sir," Jefferson told Lewis. "I never touched him, sir."
Tyler Martin, a Kent State student in November 2009, testified Tuesday that he was walking home with two friends when he witnessed the assault.
Martin identified Barker as the man who "sucker-punched Chris Kernich in the back of the head, and then stomped him to death in the middle of the street" as Kernich and Kelly squared-up for a one-on-one fight after Barker, Jefferson and Kelly got into an altercation with Kernich and his three friends.
Martin told Assistant Prosecutor Connie Lewandowski that Barker's demeanor was "evil." "It's like (Barker) was proud to be kicking and stomping (Kernich)," Martin testified.
Martin testified Barker and Kelly used racial slurs to egg on a crowd of eyewitnesses. He testified he was "100 percent" certain Barker and Kelly were Kernich's attackers. Barker "was by far the aggressor in that situation. It was almost demonic," Martin testified.
Jefferson kicked Kernich once in the midsection, but with less force than the other two men, Martin testified.
Testimony continues at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Portage County Common Pleas Judge John Enlow's courtroom.
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Facebook: Dave O'Brien, Record-Courier