Teen accused in Long Beach killing turns self in

July 14, 2011 9:13:51 AM PDT
A Chicago teenager charged with killing another teen on an Indiana beach has turned himself in to authorities.

There was an arrest warrant out for James Malecek. He responded to that warrant by turning himself in at the La Porte County, Indiana sheriff's complex around noon Thursday.

Three hours later, he walked out after posting $25,000 bond and being photographed and fingerprinted in the La Porte County lockup.

The 19-year-old and his attorney said nothing as they left. Kennelly's death was ruled a homicide on Thursday, and Malecek is charged with aggravated battery and involuntary manslaughter.

Long Beach police have declined to comment on what exactly started the fight, but they describe it as a two-person altercation, not a large brawl.

In the 3800-block of N. Marshfield on the North Side where Malecek lives with his parents, neighbors were stunned.

" They're a great family. Great kid, very helpful, cut my grass, shoveled my snow, very helpful," said neighbor Cathleen Romo.

Witnesses at the probable cause hearing for Malecek testified that it was just one punch to the head that delivered the fatal blow.

Kevin Kennelly, Jr. was 17 years old and was going to be a senior at Mt. Carmel High School, where he played on the varsity baseball team. On the night of the Fourth of July, Kennelly was on the beach in Long Beach, Indiana, when his father, a Chicago Fire Department captain, says that a fight broke out, and that he believes his son tried to intervene.

"I told this kid from the time he was small: don't try and get in the middle of a fight and stop it, but he didn't listen to that," said Kennelly, Sr. "He listened to his 13 years of Catholic education that said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, theirs shall be the kingdom of heaven,' and I think that's what happened to my son."

"Somehow or another, as he was doing that, the offender sucker-punched him in the face, and he went immediately down," said Kennelly, Sr.

Tom Burke, a close friend of the Kennellys, lives yards from where the incident happen. The 911 call that night came from his home.

"Long Beach will never forget Kevin, and Kevin will bring out the better things in the people here," said Burke.

The victim and the teen charged both live in Chicago, played sports and were close in age, though they attended different Catholic schools - Kennelly went to Mt. Carmel, while Malecek attended Loyola Academy. A visitation will be held for Kennelly Friday at Mt. Carmel.

Both families have been described as devout and respected, with homes in both Chicago and Long Beach.

"Two kids obviously raised by loving parents," said Burke. "I only know one party, but I wouldn't be surprised if at some point in the future that their lives may have crossed and perhaps a bond would have struck."

Both Kennelly and Malecek were celebrating the holiday weekend at their parents' lake homes. It does not appear that they knew each other before they met on the beach the night of the Fourth of July.