Father of figure skater Nancy Kerrigan dies; brother faces assault charge

Monday, January 25, 2010

Kerrigan’s dad dies; brother accused of assault

WOBURN, Mass. — Daniel Kerrigan, who rushed to his sobbing daughter Nancy and carried her into the locker room after an attack at a skating competition nearly derailed her Olympic dreams, died after what authorities said was a violent struggle with his son in their family home.

Mark Kerrigan, 45, pleaded not guilty Monday to assaulting his 70-year-old father at the home in the Boston suburb of Stoneham where he had been living with his parents. He did not speak at his arraignment but at one point put his head in his hands and wept.

Nancy Kerrigan, a two-time Olympic medal winner, arrived at the family home shortly before 2 p.m. Monday and left a couple of hours later. She did not say anything to reporters and photographers waiting outside.

Family members said Daniel Kerrigan’s death was not related to the argument with his son early Sunday.

A woman who answered the phone at a listing for Daniel Kerrigan identified herself only as “Dan’s sister” and said her brother “had a massive heart attack.” She said her nephew played no part in the death and declined to comment further. Brenda Kerrigan, Daniel Kerrigan’s wife, told the Boston Herald that her husband died of a heart attack and that there was nothing suspicious about the death.

In a brief statement issued later Monday, the family called Daniel Kerrigan a “wonderful husband” and “a caring and loving father” and said it was focused on “mourning Dan and honoring his life and many contributions.” The statement did not mention the charge against Mark Kerrigan and asked that the family’s privacy be respected.

Mark Kerrigan, who has a history of domestic violence arrests and was sued by his parents to recover money they had provided him, was being held on $10,000 bail. He was released from jail in 2007, according to his lawyer, but it was not immediately clear why he was serving time or for how long he served.

The death of Daniel Kerrigan comes as the national spotlight again turns to one of the most popular sports in the upcoming Olympic Games, just weeks away. The intensity of competition among skaters was never more apparent than in 1994, when an assailant clubbed Nancy Kerrigan on her right knee during practice at the U.S. Championships. An investigation revealed rival Tonya Harding had knowledge of the planning of the attack.

Daniel Kerrigan and his wife, Brenda, nurtured the love of skating in their daughter, who was a self-described tomboy with two hockey-playing big brothers. Daniel Kerrigan, a welder, drove a Zamboni ice-cleaning machine at the local rink in exchange for practice ice time, and he and Brenda took out a second mortgage on their home to help pay for Nancy’s skating lessons.

The family is traditionally low-key and private, and they struggled with the attention brought on by the assault on Nancy.

“I hate the fact that the Kerrigans’ laundry is aired out in newspapers all around the world and everybody has to know all about us,” her brother Michael said at the time.

That uncomfortable attention has now returned.

Daniel Kerrigan was found on the floor of his home, unconscious, by officers who responded to a 911 call at 1:30 a.m. Sunday. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead, and results of an autopsy were pending.

Police said Mark Kerrigan appeared intoxicated when he was found on a couch in the basement of the home and was “belligerent and combative” but coherent when questioned. Officers used pepper spray to subdue him and eventually arrested him.

“He stated that he wanted to use the phone and his father would not let him. He said he struggled with his father and put his hands around his father’s neck and his father fell to the floor,” the arresting officer wrote.

Mark Kerrigan told officers that he believed his father was “faking it,” according to the report.

The officers said they saw blood on the floor near where Daniel Kerrigan had been treated by emergency workers, as well as signs of a struggle, including three pictures that had apparently been knocked off the wall and a broken piece of the telephone.

Possible further charges against Mark Kerrigan would be based “in large measure” on results of the autopsy, said Middlesex District Attorney Gerald Leone. A final opinion from the state medical examiner was expected within two weeks, Leone said.

Elizabeth Healey, an assistant Middlesex County district attorney, cited Mark Kerrigan’s long criminal record — including arrests for assault and battery, assault with a dangerous weapon, malicious destruction and violation of a restraining order — in arguing for bail during the arraignment in Woburn District Court. Records showed the charges were related to Mark Kerrigan’s wife, Janet, though it wasn’t clear whether they were still together.

Defense attorney Denise Moore argued he should be released without bail, citing strong ties to the area. She also said he was an Army veteran who had served overseas.

“He is extremely distraught over the death of his father and denies any responsibility,” Moore said in court. She said her client was on medication for post-traumatic stress syndrome and was seeing a psychiatrist.

Jim Day, who described himself as a family friend who has known the Kerrigan children since they were very young, said outside the courthouse that the family was grieving.

“They have lost a husband, a father, a brother, a grandfather, someone that they loved very dearly,” said Day, who described Daniel Kerrigan as a devoted husband and father.

“If you look in the dictionary and wanted the definition of what a man and father was, that was Danny Kerrigan,” Day said.

Stoneham and state police assigned to the Middlesex district attorney’s office are continuing the investigation. The chief would not say if he knew whether police had been called to the home in the past for domestic reasons.

Nancy Kerrigan is a two-time Olympic medal winner, taking the bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, and the silver at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. She won a gold medal at the 1993 U.S. Championships.

Nancy Kerrigan married her manager, Jerry Solomon, in 1995. They live in Lynnfield and have three children together. A message left with Solomon was not immediately returned.

A funeral Mass was scheduled for Thursday.

Associated Press writers Bob Salsberg and Steve LeBlanc in Boston and Eric Tucker in Providence, R.I., contributed to this report.

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