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Tearful Testimony As St. Croix Stabbing Trial Begins

BALSAM LAKE, Wis. (WCCO) -- Testimony is now underway in the fatal stabbing of a young father who went to confront a group of fishermen over their language last spring.

Levi Acre-Kendall, of Cambridge, is on trial for the stabbing death of Peter Kelly last April at Interstate Park in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin.

The two groups of anglers got into a heated argument across the river from each other.

The trial started Monday in Balsam Lake, Wisconsin. The judge made it clear to jurors that the case comes down to one of reasonable force.

Acre-Kendall's fate hangs in the balance of a crucial question: Did he intend to kill Kelly, or was he acting in self-defense?

"There must have been a reasonable belief that the force used was necessary to prevent death...or great bodily harm," said District Attorney Dan Steffen.

The defense argued that Acre-Kendall had no intention to fight, saying he pulled a knife on Kelly only to prevent further altercation.

"There is no dispute that…Mr. Kelly knew he had a knife," defense attorney Eric Nelson said.

Ross Lechman was Kelly's best friend, and was with him when the fun night turned fatal.

"[Kelly] said, 'He stabbed me,'" Lechman said. "So I said to [Acre-Kendall], 'You stabbed my friend,' and he said, 'Yes, I did.'"

Jurors saw a video of Lechman interviewed at the crime scene, explaining how he and Kelly crossed the river to talk to the other anglers about their vulgar language and smoking dope.

"Really, you gonna pull a knife when we're here trying to talk about fishing and respect," Lechman said in the video.

Lechman broke down on the stand, recounting how Kelly, a father of five, died in his arms.

"Just kept telling him, 'C'mon Pete, hang in there,'" Lechman said.

Throughout that very emotional testimony, Acre-Kendall was tearing up, grabbing for tissues to dab his eyes.

The defense also got Lechman to say that Acre-Kendall was not threatening with the knife, or waving it at them, but rather holding it to his side.

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