Alleged killer of gay man back behind bars

Kenneth Frye.
Kenneth Frye.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Lillian H. Ransom this week ordered Kenneth Frye back into jail, after Frye allegedly looted a liquor store in September while out on bail for allegedly murdering Eric Pope.

Frye, 24, allegedly sucker-punched Pope outside Tabu Nightclub on April 16, 2022. At the time, Frye worked as a bouncer at Tabu. Pope was a beloved educator and member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Pope, 41, died a week later and Frye was charged with third-degree murder. In December 2022, Ransom downgraded the charge to manslaughter but the DA’s Office is appealing that ruling in state Superior Court.

On Sept. 26, Frye allegedly burglarized a liquor store in West Philadelphia during civil unrest allegedly related to the release of Mark Dial, a former police officer who killed a man during a traffic stop.

During an Oct. 26 bail hearing for Frye, Ransom stopped short of granting a request by the District Attorney’s Office to revoke Frye’s bail. But she said she would increase Frye’s bail from $350,000 to $500,000.

In Philadelphia, defendants must pay 10% of their total bail amount to be released. That means Frye and/or his family would have to pay an additional $15,000 to the court to secure his release.

Alternatively, Frye and/or his family could work out a payment plan with a bail bondsperson. However, the fees paid to a bail bondsperson are non-refundable.

Defense attorney Zak T. Goldstein argued that Frye wasn’t a flight risk nor a danger to society. He noted that Frye has been gainfully employed and never failed to attend his prior court appearances.

Goldstein acknowledged that Frye was apprehended by police inside a liquor store after closing time. But he said a preliminary hearing on the matter won’t be held until Nov. 30. Thus far, Goldsein said, no evidence has been presented that Frye was in possession of stolen goods when arrested.

However, Ransom noted that Frye “keeps getting into trouble for [allegedly] doing things he isn’t supposed to be doing.”

The judge also said the release of Dial from jail wasn’t necessarily linked to the alleged looting that took place, even though both events happened around the same time. Ironically, a day before Frye’s hearing, Ransom reinstated Dial’s murder charges and ordered Dial back in jail.

Ransom acknowledged she hadn’t read prosecutor Ashley M. Toczylowski’s bail-revocation motion for Frye, prior to the Oct. 26 hearing. Toczyzlowski said she didn’t bring an extra copy with her to give to Ransom. But Goldstein provided Ransom with a copy of the motion.

After reading the motion, Ransom ordered a sheriff’s deputy to escort Frye into custody. Frye was dressed entirely in black. He appeared visibly upset with Ransom’s ruling but didn’t make any public statement.

Frye’s parents and two sisters also attended the proceeding and appeared visibly upset.

Oral arguments on the DA’s request for reinstatement of the third-degree murder charge against Frye will take place at 10 a.m. Nov. 2 on the 17th floor of 530 Walnut St. in Center City. The public is permitted to attend.

After the Oct. 26 hearing, Goldstein issued this statement: “Mr. Frye does not pose a threat to the community, and I am glad that the Court rejected the Commonwealth’s request to have him held without bail until trial. In order to have bail revoked, the Commonwealth would have had to prove that no set of conditions could protect the community from Mr. Frye, and by denying their motion, the Court found that that was not the case. I am hopeful that Mr. Frye will be able to make the new bail amount. I look forward to oral argument on the Commonwealth’s appeal of the motion to quash the charge from murder to involuntary manslaughter. The appellate courts have never found one punch to be a murder, and I am optimistic that the Superior Court will apply its existing precedent and uphold the trial court’s ruling. Mr. Frye remains presumed innocent in both cases, and we look forward to resolving these matters in court.”

Jane Roh, a spokesperson for the DA’s Office, had no comment for this story, noting that the matter is an “open investigation.”