Slain Pennsylvania activist might have survived

BY Advocate.com Editors

May 13 2003 11:00 PM ET

A gay activist who was fatally stabbed would likely have survived his injury if his lover, who is charged with killing him, had told police about it immediately, a pathologist has testified. Kenneth Stephens Jr., 21, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., initially told police he had been stabbed in his truck during an argument with his partner, Michael Pierson, 40, on January 28. He said Pierson, a Red Cross HIV/AIDS educator and vice president of Pride of Northeast Pennsylvania, then fled the scene. Pierson, who had been stabbed once in the chest, remained missing until his body was discovered six weeks later in a pond at the Glenmaura National Golf Club in Moosic. It probably took Pierson 20 to 30 minutes to die, but it's possible he could have lived up to three more hours, according to testimony by pathologist Gary Ross at Stephens's preliminary hearing on Monday. District justice Alyce Hailstone Farrell of Scranton bound Stephens over on a single count of criminal homicide to Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas.

Police said Stephens was "afraid" of going to jail and did not tell police he'd stabbed Pierson until Pierson's body was found March 12. Stephens has claimed self-defense. In an interview March 13, Stephens told police he had pulled out a pocketknife to quiet Pierson during the argument, only to have Pierson take it and stab Stephens repeatedly, according to the police affidavit. Stephens said he eventually grabbed the knife and stabbed Pierson, investigators said. Ross testified that Stephens's wounds appeared self-inflicted. Defense attorney Nanda Palissery said he disagrees and will address the issue at trial. Stephens told police he got out of the vehicle after the fight and called 911. When police arrived, Stephens did not tell police Pierson had been stabbed. They issued a warrant for Pierson's arrest. Friends of Pierson said the couple had broken up a few days before the incident.

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