AUBURN | Kevin Ritchie shuffled into the courtroom, wearing shackles, orange prison scrubs and a healing black eye.

The 28-year-old Auburn man chewed his lip as he made his way to the defense table Tuesday morning in Cayuga County Court — keeping his eyes focused on his feet as he walked past benches filled with the loved ones of Matthew Prego, the 28-year-old Skaneateles man Ritchie stands accused of murdering.

Ritchie, of 67 North Division St., kept silent as Rome Canzano, his defense attorney, entered a not guilty plea on Ritchie's behalf, denying charges accusing his client of fatally stabbing Prego.

District Attorney Jon Budelmann asked Judge Mark Fandrich to keep Ritchie housed in the custody of the Cayuga County Jail, arguing that there were plenty of reasons for Ritchie to run.

"I would note that the evidence is substantial," Budelmann said. "Therefore, the likelihood of conviction is high."

Fandrich remanded Ritchie into custody without bail. And with his short arraignment appearance at an end, Ritchie exited the room.

Prego's teary-eyed family and friends filed out of the court soon after, squeezing each other's hands. A few minutes later, Ritchie's parents quietly followed.

According to the Auburn Police Department, the fatal Sept. 28 fight between Ritchie and Prego occurred outside a party at 33 Case Ave.

Prego and Ritchie first clashed when Ritchie allegedly started choking and hitting Karly Janusz, who Prego had been seeing for a month. Sometime after Prego broke up the fight, the men started to fight and Ritchie allegedly stabbed Prego multiple times in the torso.

The fatally injured Prego was transported to Auburn Community Hospital, where he died.

Ritchie allegedly fled, but was found in the neighborhood and taken into custody.

The defendant is facing a lengthy indictment that includes second-degree murder, three counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, second-degree assault, second-degree menacing and tampering with physical evidence, all felonies. He was also charged with criminal obstruction of breathing and second-degree obstructing governmental administration, both misdemeanors.

Ritchie is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday, Dec. 17 for pre-trial arguments.

Staff writer Samantha House can be reached at (315) 282-2282 or Follow her on Twitter @Citizen_House.

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