Grad student denied bail in fatal knifing

Harvard man accused of stabbing cook, 18

April 19, 2003|By Elizabeth Mehren | Elizabeth Mehren,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - In a crowded courtroom here yesterday, half the spectators gasped in dismay and half whooped with joy as a judge denied bail to a Harvard graduate student accused of fatally stabbing an 18-year-old cook.

Michael Colono died early Sunday after an altercation with Alexander Pring-Wilson outside a pizza parlor. Dozens of Colono's friends and relatives shouted "Yesssss!" when Judge Severin Singleton issued his ruling.

Pring-Wilson, the son of prominent attorneys from Colorado, is accused of stabbing Colono, the son of Puerto Rican immigrants, to death in a street fight. Pring-Wilson, 25, is charged with first-degree murder, which in Massachusetts carries an automatic life sentence upon conviction. Massachusetts has no death penalty.

More than 50 supporters of Pring-Wilson from Harvard and his home state of Colorado appeared shocked as the judge declared that though "he appears to be an extraordinary individual from an extraordinary background, someone with a future, or maybe with a future," Pring-Wilson was a flight risk whose alleged crime was too serious to merit bail.

Pring-Wilson, a graduate of Colorado College in Colorado Springs, is pursuing a master's degree in Russian studies at Harvard. He speaks five languages, including Croatian. His father, Ross Wilson, is a well-known defense lawyer in Colorado, and his mother, Cynthia Pring, is a former Colorado deputy district attorney. Both attended their son's bail hearing yesterday, as did Pring-Wilson's stepfather, Rusty Griffith.

Colono, who left high school to help support his parents, was on probation after a conviction two years ago for selling crack cocaine. He also had a record of minor juvenile infractions, such as trespassing and disorderly conduct.

According to accounts presented in court yesterday, Pring-Wilson - who is known as Zander - had been drinking before he set out for home about 1:45 a.m. Sunday. It was raining heavily, and Pring-Wilson was wearing a yellow rain poncho and flip-flops. He had been socializing at a Cambridge bar with two female friends.

Colono, the father of a 3-year-old daughter, was sitting in a car with his cousin and a female friend, waiting to pick up a pizza. "Will you look at that guy staggering up the street?" prosecutor Adrienne Lynch said Colono commented.

Pring-Wilson, talking by cell phone with his girlfriend in Colorado as he walked, allegedly overheard the remark and approached the vehicle where Colono was sitting in the backseat. An autopsy showed that in the ensuing fight, Colono received five stab wounds. The fatal knife thrust penetrated the right ventricle of his heart.

Elizabeth Mehren writes for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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