Trial begins for man accused of strangling Ardmore model over drug dispute

Jim Melwert
May 06, 2019 - 11:23 am
Jonathan Harris

Jim Melwert/KYW Newsradio

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UPDATED: 5:20 p.m.

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NORRISTOWN, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — On the first day of the trial for a Philadelphia man accused of murdering a one-time Playboy model in her Ardmore condo, attorneys told jurors that this case isn't a who-done-it, but rather a question of if it was pre-meditated.

Jonathan Harris, 31, has been charged with the murder of 36-year-old Christina Kraft inside her condo on Sibley Avenue near Suburban Square in August 2018.

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According to prior testimony, Harris told detectives he met Kraft in Center City late in the evening. The two went back to her apartment, where he said he sold her an ounce of cocaine. 

They drank three bottles of wine and then had sex. Afterward, when he asked her for $1,200 for the cocaine, she refused, saying that was why they had sex. 

Harris told detectives he got angry with Kraft; she hit him with a bottle. Harris said he hit her and eventually tied her up. When she tried to call the police, he choked her. 

He said he thought she was still alive when he snuck out by climbing off her balcony. Prosecutors, however, say Kraft's body was found in her bed, covered with a sheets and a throw rug, which they claim shows consciousness of guilt.

Prosecutor Roderick Fancher said in opening statements Monday that there is no question Harris killed Kraft, telling the jury that the evidence will show the murder was in the first degree.

Fancher pointed to Harris' confession to police, where he said he initially punched Kraft "to shut her up." Things went downhill from there, Fancher said, as Harris strangled Kraft with her sweatpants as a means to silence her, because he knew she would go to police.

But defense attorney Charles Peruto told the jury that Harris was "out of his mind on drugs," smoking a cat tranquilizer. While he remembers some things that happened that night, he said his client doesn't remember an exact timeline.

Peruto countered that Harris went to Kraft's apartment to sell her cocaine, and the sex was consensual. Peruto added that afterward, Harris was looking for the drugs like "a mad dog because they were worth $1,200."

Peruto also noted that Kraft had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit.

The defense acknowledged that Harris did "a bad thing," but he asked jurors to consider all the evidence and information before making a decision.

Harris is facing life in prison. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.

The trial is expected to last all week.