Reward Offered In Fatal Beating Near Liberty Bell

Published January 17, 2012 7:27PM (EST)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A recent college graduate left a bar with his girlfriend just steps from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia's tourist district, yelled at a cab that wouldn't give him a ride and was fatally beaten by men who piled out of a car, perhaps in the mistaken belief he was yelling at them, investigators said.

Police are seeking four suspects and offering a reward in the brutal beating of Kevin Kless, 23, early Saturday after he shouted at the cab while he, his girlfriend and a female friend looked for a ride, authorities said. Three men got out of a car behind the cab and started kicking and punching Kless, who fell to the sidewalk severely injured.

The three men and the driver of the car drove off. Kless was pronounced dead at a hospital several hours later. Investigators were still looking for the four men Tuesday and trying to get more information on the brutal attack, said Officer Christine O'Brien, a police spokeswoman.

The city and the Fraternal Order of Police announced a combined $15,000 in reward money for arrests and convictions, and Mayor Michael Nutter took to Twitter to condemn the killing: "Encourage ANYONE who knows or saw anything about this incident to give us info, we need to catch these people, asap!"

The attack was the latest in a string of killings in the City of Brotherly Love, where there have been 20 homicides so far in 2012, up from 12 at the same point last year. Last week, a 30-year-old man with a long arrest record was charged with gunning down a carload of seven teenagers who had been feuding with his stepsons. Three of the boys died.

Investigators have little information in Kless' killing, which happened as he tried to stop the cab near Lucy's Hat Shop, a bar in the city's historic section. The area, where Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are located, is also home to many bars and restaurants and is a popular hangout for young adults.

When the cab stopped, police said, Kless got involved in a conversation with the cab driver, who then drove off. The suspects, who were in a car behind the cab, apparently thought Kless was yelling at them, according to police. Three of them got out and began beating Kless near the historic Second Bank of the United States.

Kless, a May 2010 graduate of Temple University who had studied risk management, had recently returned to the city to work at an insurance firm after spending time working in Harrisburg.

The youngest of three brothers, Kless grew up in Warwick, N.Y., and spent his whole life there before going to college in Philadelphia, said his mother, Kendall Kless.

"Kev was returning to Philly with this job and thrilled to be back among his friends," said Kless, who described her son as a very social person with a huge circle of friends, who have been offering condolences to the family. "It's what is holding us up right now."

One of Kless' professors described him as a good student and a pleasant and easygoing person who was rising in his field.

"He was a good, solid ambassador for our program," said R.B. Drennan, associate professor and chairman of Temple's Department of Risk, Insurance and Health Care Management. "He was well on his way."

His mother said Kless, who had a knack for making people laugh, dreamt of making an impact on the world.

"If anything has come from this that I didn't realize was how loved his was," she said. "He made everybody laugh. He made everybody happy."

There are simply no answers to explain a killing that can only be described as senseless, Kless said.

"There is no sense in it," she said. "There is nothing that makes sense about this."

By Salon Staff

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