BALSAM LAKE, Wis. (WCCO) — Jury deliberations are now underway for a man accused of stabbing to death a Wisconsin father of five.
Levi Acre-Kendall is charged with stabbing Peter Kelly in a park last spring. Investigators say two groups fishing along the St. Croix River had gotten into a fight. Acre-Kendall is accused of killing Kelly during that struggle, but he says it was self defense.
On Saturday morning, the prosecution asked to add a new charge of second degree reckless homicide. It’s the least severe of the previous two charges — 2nd degree intentional murder and 1st degree reckless homicide.
Hours before the jury started their deliberations, two attorneys used closing arguments to tell two very different interpretations of that April evening that ended in the loss of life along the St. Croix River.
“This is self defense,” defense attorney Eric Nelson told the court. “This act was an act of self defense.”
Prosecutor Dan Steffen saw things differently.
“It’s not reasonable to believe he thought he was going to die or suffer bodily harm,” Steffen said in his closing argument.
The prosecution spent nearly two hours trying to show jurors that Acre-Kendall was not fearful for his life when a verbal argument escalated into a physical fight, and eventually to the stabbing death of Peter Kelly.
“They’re going shoulder-to-shoulder with each other like this, according to [witness] Jake Mossberg,” Steffen said to the jury. “And this whole time, what does the defendant have out? A knife.”
Steffen also reminded jurors Acre-Kendall and his friends drove off after the stabbing, and emphasized the state’s narrative that Acre-Kendall tried to come up with a story to cover the crime.
“Did you hear anybody amongst their friends — three of them — from the defendant, from his father, in his conversations with his father, anybody — did you hear the words ‘self defense’?” Steffen asked the court. “I don’t believe you did.”
But the defense had a different version — the story of a 19-year-old trying to back away into his friends vehicle during an argument, hoping that showing a knife would scare Kelly off.
“The knife does not de-escalate the situation, it makes it worse,” Nelson said. “How terrifying is that?”
After the stabbing, Acre-Kendall’s attorney argued the teen’s actions weren’t those of a criminal mastermind, but a scared kid.
“Were there bad decisions? Oh, there were bad decisions,” Nelson said. “Starting when Mr. Kelly and Mr. Lechman decided to take the law into their own hands.”
If jurors are unable to reach a verdict by 8 p.m. Saturday, they’ll break for the night and reconvene at 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning.