Ride operator charged with murder in brawl at Jackson Co. fair

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A ride operator at a southern Indiana county’s fair has been charged with murder following the death of a man who fell unconscious during a closing time brawl, authorities said.

Zachariah Konkle, 32, allegedly rendered Michael Steele unconscious while pinning him to the ground during the July 27 fight at the Jackson County Fair, prosecutors said. Steele died Saturday in a hospital.

An autopsy found Steele’s death to be a homicide by asphyxiation. His death prompted prosecutors to elevate Konkle’s initial strangulation charge to a murder charge, The Indianapolis Star reported.

During his initial hearing on Wednesday, a judge appointed a public defender for Konkle, who is being held without bond at the Jackson County Jail in Brownstown, about 70 miles south of Indianapolis.

A message seeking comment on Konkle’s behalf was left Thursday with the county’s public defender’s office.

According to court records, the fight unfolded when a family told Konkle, who operated the Black Widow ride, that someone at a nearby game had made fun of their child with special needs.

Konkle told the family he’d take care of the problem and then punched a game operator in the head while accusing him of making fun of an autistic child, the records state.

When the game operator denied doing so, witnesses said Konkle walked over to Steele, threatened to punch him and shouted at him until Steele threw a punch. The men then fell to the ground, where witnesses said Konkle put Steele in a head lock and punched him five to six times.

Konkle later told police he estimated he laid on Steele’s chest for a minute, maybe two, before he went limp.

A woman told police she tried to perform CPR on Steele until Konkle pushed her off him, saying she was doing it incorrectly. He then performed CPR until police arrived and arrested him, records state.

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