BALSAM LAKE, Wis. (KMSP) - “I was scared as hell. I felt doomed. I felt this is it.”
Levi Acre-Kendall took the stand in his own defense Friday, and broke down to tears at times during hours of riveting testimony. The 20-year-old man from Cambridge, Minn. is on trial for the deadly stabbing of fisherman Peter Kelly along the St. Croix River last spring.
“I wanted to leave,” he said. “I didn’t want to fight them. I didn’t want to deal with it. I just wanted to go.”
Levi and his friends began the night of April 14 on the Wisconsin side of the St. Croix River. Eventually, they exchanged words, threats and sexual vulgarities with Peter Kelly and his buddy across the water in Minnesota. The older pair eventually drove across the border in the dark of night, surprising Levi’s crew.
Acre-Kendall testified that there was an exchange of words and he was tackled to the ground.
“I popped back up and I had my fishing knife in my pocket,” he said. “I pulled it out and said, ‘What the f—k…get back, out of here.’”
Levi said the knife enraged Kelly, and Levi shuffled back into the passenger seat of his buddy’s car. It was just a matter of seconds, Levi said, until Kelly yanked him from the seat, the two grappling in a shoulder lock. The courtroom grew tense as he described what happened next.
“My body fell forward a little bit. The last thing I remember seeing was his tennis shoes and my flip-flops. I stabbed him.”
Kelly would take off running before collapsing and dying -- the stab wound piercing his heart. Prosecutor Dan Steffen went hard after the 20-year-old during cross-examination, getting Levi to admit he “intended to stab” Kelly.
The jury must decide whether the deadly confrontation was an act of self-defense or a case of murder. Regardless of the outcome, with all the emotional testimony this week, it would appear there will be no winners.
“I wish I could take it all back. I wish I could change it,” Acre-Kendall testified. “This year has sucked. Just really heavy on my shoulders. I’m so sorry.”