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Kerrigan's brother to be arraigned in Mass. court

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[April 20, 2010]  BOSTON (AP) -- An argument that prosecutors say climaxed with a violent clash has the brother of figure skater Nancy Kerrigan facing a manslaughter charge in the death of their 70-year-old father and the close-knit family vowing to help fight the charge.

HardwareA day after being indicted by a grand jury in the Jan. 24 death of Daniel Kerrigan, 45-year-old Mark Kerrigan is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn. The maximum sentence for manslaughter in Massachusetts is 20 years in prison.

Kerrigan had been charged with assault and battery on an elderly person resulting in serious bodily injury. Since being released on bail after a psychiatric evaluation, he has been living with his mother in the family's Stoneham home, where the alleged assault took place.

Prosecutors said Kerrigan was in a drunken rage in an argument over the use of the family telephone when the conflict with his father intensified and escalated into violence.

Officials said the younger Kerrigan began pushing, grabbing and shoving his father. They said Kerrigan grabbed his father around the neck, fracturing his larynx and causing him to fall to the floor on his back, unconscious.

A state medical examiner said the cause of death was "cardiac dysrhythmia" -- a loss or interruption of a normal heartbeat that can lead to cardiac arrest -- after an altercation with neck compression that damaged his windpipe. The findings also noted that the elder Kerrigan had high blood pressure and clogged arteries.

Members of the Kerrigan family have insisted they don't blame Mark Kerrigan for the death of his father. They said in a statement Thursday that they were "deeply disappointed" in the decision to pursue a manslaughter charge.

They said they look forward "to the facts being considered by an impartial jury."

In announcing the indictment Thursday, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone said Mark Kerrigan's "reckless actions and complete disregard for his father's safety and well-being" led to his death.

"This defendant should have known that the cruel acts that he committed against his elderly father, including grabbing him by the neck with enough force to cause a fracture, were highly likely to result in substantial harm and endanger his father's life," Leone said.

Leone described a chaotic scene that unfolded over hours.

Police received a 911 call around 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 23 on reports of an altercation between Mark Kerrigan and a female acquaintance, Leone said. The woman said Kerrigan wouldn't let her leave the house.

Daniel Kerrigan returned home to try to calm his son. Over the next six hours, Mark Kerrigan became drunk and repeatedly argued with his parents, trying to use the phone to contact the woman. He had already left more than a dozen messages on her cell phone, prosecutors said.

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After midnight, Mark Kerrigan went into his parents' bedroom, screaming obscenities and yelling about the telephone not working, authorities said. They went to talk to their son downstairs, where the argument became violent, prosecutors said.

Kerrigan's mother, Brenda, called 911; Mark Kerrigan is heard screaming obscenities at his father.

When police approached Mark Kerrigan, he swore at them as they attempted to subdue him. Once handcuffed, Kerrigan acknowledged the fight but told police his father was "faking it," Leone said.

Mark Kerrigan has a long criminal record, with convictions dating to 1991, including drunken driving, assault and battery, domestic assaults, resisting arrest and violation of a restraining order. His former lawyer said Kerrigan, an unemployed plumber, was on medication for post-traumatic stress syndrome and was seeing a psychiatrist.

Kerrigan's family has challenged the medical examiner's findings.

In a letter released in February, Nancy Kerrigan, a two-time Olympic medal winner, called the homicide ruling "unjustified" and said she and her family plan to "help my brother fight" the finding.

Nancy Kerrigan, of Lynnfield, won the bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, and the silver at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. She won a gold medal at the 1993 U.S. Championships.

She was at the center of a saga at the U.S. Championships before the 1994 Games, when an assailant clubbed her right knee during practice and an investigation revealed rival Tonya Harding had knowledge of the planning of the attack.

[Associated Press; By DENISE LAVOIE]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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