MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota man on trial in the fatal stabbing of a father along the St. Croix River took the stand in his own defense Friday.

Twenty-year-old Levi Acre-Kendall tearfully recalled the night last April.

He has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense after being accused of killing 34-year-old Peter Kelly of St. Croix Falls. The two had gotten into an argument while fishing along the river.

Seats filled quickly to finally hear Acre-Kendall tell his story. The courtroom was dead silent as he explained how a fishing dispute turned deadly.

He had been arguing with Kelly and Ross Lechman from across the river.

“At that point I thought they were just joking around,” Acre-Kendall said.

When they came over to confront the group, Acre-Kendall was thrown to the ground, skinning his knees and hand.

“I kind of went down on all fours and, like, kind of, sort of caught myself with my hands and just kind of popped back up,” he said.

Acre-Kendall then grabbed a fishing knife — an illegal switchblade — from his pocket, which he says was intended to scare Kelly away.

“I was even more scared because they weren’t fazed by it,” he said. “I mean, I was intimidated.”

He told jurors when he sat down in the car to leave, Kelly yanked him out.

“I was scared as hell. I felt like I was doomed, like this was it,” he said.

Families and friends of both men listened intently for nearly three and a half hours. When asked why he stabbed Kelly, Acre-Kendall says he thought he was going to be attacked.

Acre-Kendall displayed the stabbing motion while under intense cross examination, admitting it was intentional.

He expressed remorse earlier in his testimony, and then broke down in tears.

“I wish I could take it all back, I wish I could change it. I’m so sorry,” he said.

Judge Molly GaleWyrick gave defense a setback earlier in the day when she ruled that the defense could not claim the immunity granted under the state’s “Castle Doctrine.” That would have forced prosecution to prove that Acre-Kendall was not using reasonable force in his self-defense.

That was rejected since his knife was illegal.

Bill Hudson