Murder Charges Upheld in Ballpark Beating Case

The three men are charged with murder and conspiracy

Tears and fear filled a Philadelphia courtroom Wednesday afternoon as a preliminary hearing was held for three men accused of beating David Sale to death outside Citizens Bank Park in July.

Sale, 22, was at a friend's bachelor party inside the ballpark on July 25 for the Phillies-Cardinals game. The suspects were part of a bar tour from Fishtown. The two groups got into a fight over a spilled beer at McFaddens Restaurant and Saloon. The fight turned physical in the parking lot. Sale was held down by at least two men and kicked in the face by a third, according to police. The beating killed him.

Charles Bowers, 35, James Groves, 45, and Francis Kirchner, 28, are the three men charged in the case. Bowers and Kirchner both have a history of prior arrests where they got violent after partying.

A judge heard testimony from witnesses and the medical examiner to determine if the charges of murder and conspiracy are just. The M.E. was first on the stand, describing the injuries Sale sustained. Using postmortem photos of the victim, the doctor detailed every injury -- noting that punches could be the cause. The gruesome scene was too much for Sale's mother, who ran from the courtroom crying.

Assistant district attorney Richard Sax described the beating as "vicious and extended, just nasty beating, kicking, punching, stomping."

Witness and friend of the suspects Jason Johnson immediately identified the three men as he took the stand, but was reluctant to be specific as to who delivered the blows. The man changed his story several times during the testimony and admitted to drinking up to six beers before witnessing the beating. When asked if he was threatened, Johnson admitted he was called a "rat" and told "you're gonna get it" just Tuesday in his Fishtown neighborhood.

"My son didn't do anything," said Bower's father outside the Criminal Justice Center after Johnson testified to pulling the man off of Sale during the melee. "He was in a separate fight that wasn't there."

Several other witnesses who had no connection to the victim or suspects also testified -- pegging Kirchner as the one who repeatedly kicked Sale in the face.

The evidence put forth was compelling enough for the judge to uphold the charges and have the men stand for trial on August 28.

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