Figure skater Nancy Kerrigan’s brother pleaded not guilty to manslaughter Friday in the death of their father, who prosecutors say was stricken after a violent clash with his son.
Prosecutors say 70-year-old Daniel Kerrigan died after the Jan. 24 fight with 45-year-old Mark Kerrigan in the family home in Stoneham, outside Boston. The family insists Mark Kerrigan is not responsible for his father’s death.
Mark Kerrigan was arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn, where he entered not guilty pleas to manslaughter and assault.
Since being released on bail after a psychiatric evaluation, Kerrigan 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 say they don’t blame Mark Kerrigan for the death. 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.
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.
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.