Reputation of golf club intruder defended |

Reputation of golf club intruder defended

Jane Stebbins

Two Ohio men and a Chicago woman are standing up for their friend, Kristopher Zeller, saying it’s out of character for the man they know to break into a Keystone home.

Zeller was confronted by the homeowner Sunday morning and was beaten with golf clubs and a fireplace poker while being chased from the home.

Aaron Marshall of Columbus, Ohio, said he grew up and roomed in college with the 34-year-old man, and that Zeller “wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Darby Strong of Chicago said her initial reaction was that Zeller “probably got drunk, didn’t know where he was and wanted to sleep and thought he was in the correct dwelling.”

“It has happened to the best of us,” she said.

Zeller was arrested early Sunday morning after a Keystone homeowner was awakened to the sounds of an intruder in his house on Wild Irishman Lane. The man’s 8-year-old son said Zeller grabbed him while he was asleep in his bed, but he was able to escape to the bathroom with his mother.

The homeowner, Greg McMurray, attacked Zeller with two golf clubs and an iron fireplace poker, destroying both in the process. Zeller was being held without bond on charges of first-degree burglary, third-degree assault and trespassing.

“I can say without hesitation that Kris had more interest in passing out in that kid’s bed than kidnapping him,” said Stephen Oliver, another friend of Zeller’s.

Some media outlets are saying Zeller was trying to kidnap or assault the child, Marshall said, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“He babysat me and my sister as well as others in the neighborhood,” Marshall said. “He’s gentle. He’s not a danger or a menace to anyone.”

Zeller’s friends admit he was quite the drinker. Marshall said Zeller had called him from his home in the Washington, D.C., area last week, saying he was going to Denver for a short period of time, and then to visit friends in Summit County.

“I’m happy he wasn’t shot because the poor people in the home he mistakenly invaded must have been scared to death,” Strong said. “He is quite possibly the most reasonable man who ever got drunk enough to literally lose his way like this.”

Kelly McMurray, Greg’s wife, declined to comment on the incident until the investigation is complete.

Marshall thinks his friend might have become further disoriented after he was whacked in the head with the golf clubs.

“I’m sure (McMurray) was just trying to defend his family,” Marshall said. “I swear on a stack of Bibles (Zeller) didn’t try to snatch or hurt that kid in any way. Not the Kris Zeller I know.”

The incident has set off a maelstrom of controversy among people who have been molested after an article appeared in the Rocky Mountain News Wednesday.

Paula Hook, an abuse survivor who directs a television program called “The Burning Cradle” on Denver Community Television, said reporters at the Rocky Mountain News were favoring Zeller by printing his friends’ version of the story.

“‘Wouldn’t hurt a fly?’ He already has,” Hook wrote to the Denver paper. “Obviously, hundreds of priests who would not hurt a fly were able to continue raping children while thousands of people believed they wouldn’t hurt a fly. I can guarantee you that little boy was traumatized by fighting with a drunk man in his bedroom at 4 a.m. Obviously the father was, also.”

Sheriff John Minor said Zeller is talking with his attorney, who is not thrilled with the media coverage.

“I don’t care what his reasons are for entering that house,” Minor said. “The fact is he went into a home, grabbed a kid, was confronted by the homeowner and wouldn’t leave. He may be the nicest guy in the world, but you do that in this county and I’m going to make sure you are vigorously prosecuted. That’s unacceptable behavior.”

Minor declined to release details of the investigation that is under way.

“There’s no telling what could have happened there,” he said. “We’ll wait and see what happens. I don’t want to stigmatize this guy, I just want to hold him accountable for what he did. This case is far from over.”

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