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A man on trial for the murder of former Playboy model Christina Carlin-Kraft was high on ketamine and “out of his mind” when he brutally beat and strangled the 36-year-old to death in her condo shortly after the pair met, according to his attorney.
“He is, in fact, the killer, but he had no intention of killing her,” defense attorney Chuck Peruto told the jury of his client Jonathan Harris, 31, according to WTXF-TV. “He didn’t go there to kill her."
Peruto said Harris had smoked cat tranquilizer before Carlin-Kraft’s August 2018 death and wasn’t aware of what he was doing during the violent confrontation.
“My defense is that he can’t form the intent to kill because he doesn’t even know what he’s doing. Everything was done out of panic,” Peruto said.
But while the defense has alleged that the dispute occurred after Carlin-Kraft had bought cocaine from Harris and then refused to pay for it, the prosecution says no cocaine was found in her system and believes she died in “sick, demonic torture,” The Morning Call reports.
“His story was that it was over cocaine, but given the circumstances around this murder, it makes no sense that this was about drugs,” said Assistant District Attorney Roderick Fancher. “Was it over sex? Was it over money? We won’t know, because the only person who did know was killed in that bedroom that night.”
Both sides are expected to deliver their closing arguments to the jury Thursday after several days of testimony from investigators and witnesses detailing Carlin-Kraft’s final moments and Harris’ movements in the days that followed.
Carlin-Kraft and Harris met in the early morning hours of Aug. 22, 2018 in Philadelphia’s Center City.
The model arrived in a ride-share vehicle and is seen in surveillance footage meeting Harris outside a pizza shop after 2 a.m.
Andrew Sanford, a Lyft driver who drove the pair back to Carlin-Kraft’s apartment, testified that Carlin-Kraft had told him that she was being harassed on the street by several men and that Harris had intervened, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
He described Harris as quiet during the ride and Carlin-Kraft as “happy-go-lucky.”
“I figured she had just gotten done partying, and wanted to go home with him and do whatever they planned on doing together,” Sanford said, adding that the pair was kissing and affectionate.
Sanford testified that most of contact seemed to be initiated by Carlin-Kraft.
Her dead body was discovered later that day by her boyfriend, Alex Ciccotelli, who became concerned after he hadn’t been able to contact her for about 24 hours.
He testified that when he arrived at the condo he discovered the door had been latched from the inside and called police, who broke down the door and discovered the apartment in disarray and Carlin-Kraft’s body in the master bedroom. She had been wrapped in clothing and blankets in what looked like a “cocoon,” according to investigators.
Harris was apprehended about a week later by Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office deputies after they noted he was acting “aggressively and erratically.”
Brandon Pearson, a man who had stayed in a hospital bed in the same room as Harris shortly after the murders, testified that Harris told him there “is nothing like squeezing somebody and feeling the last breath leave their body.”
Harris opted not to take the stand in his defense during the trial, but Det. Todd Richard did take the stand to read Harris’ alleged confession to authorities.
Harris’ reportedly gave two statements to police. While initially he admitted to meeting Carlin-Kraft and having consensual sex with her, he denied killing her; however, in a later statement he said he'd killed the model after a dispute occurred over sex and cocaine, The Mercury reports.
He told investigators that the two had several bottles of wine, but began to argue after Carlin-Kraft thought that having sex was enough payment for the cocaine. He told investigators that as the argument escalated, Carlin-Kraft hit him with a glass bottle on his ear, although detectives did not find any injuries to his ear at the time of the arrest.
“I slapped her in the face and she fell to the floor,” he allegedly told detectives.
Investigators said he then claimed to have tied Carlin-Kraft to her bed so that she couldn’t attack him before he began to choke her.
“I panicked. I was scared. I didn’t know what to do,” he reportedly told detectives. “I covered her with a blanket because I didn’t want to see her like that. I knew she was hurt really bad.”
Harris then said he left the condo by jumping from a balcony.
A medical examiner also testified during the trial that Carlin-Kraft had no cocaine or other drugs in her system when she died. She did have a blood-alcohol content of 0.25, which is approximately three times the legal limit to drive in Pennsylvania.
Harris could face life in prison if convicted for first-degree murder.
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