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N.H. man acted to defend self, others when he fatally stabbed friend at Boston hotel, lawyer says

A New Hampshire man charged with fatally stabbing a longtime friend at a Boston hotel Saturday acted to defend himself, his wife, and the victim’s girlfriend, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Ren A. Rodgers acted after his friend, Christopher Kellar, had attacked both Rodgers’s wife and Kellar’s girlfriend, and was coming after him, said Rodgers’s attorney, Jose Luis Serpa.

Kellar was “completely out of control,” Serpa said.

Rodgers, a 23-year-old Hollis, N.H., resident, was taken into custody by Boston police at the Hotel Indigo Boston Garden Saturday night shortly after the fatal incident in one of the hotel’s rooms, according to authorities and Serpa.

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Serpa said in a telephone interview Tuesday that, based on information from prosecution witnesses, it was clear his client had no choice but to strike out against Kellar. Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins’s office alleges that Rodgers stabbed Kellar in the back.

Serpa and prosecutors said Rodgers’s wife is Kellar’s sister and that the couple joined Kellar and his girlfriend for a night in Boston to celebrate Kellar’s birthday.

Kellar, whom Serpa said has a history of violent temper, began arguing with the two women.

“Things were escalating, they were getting more violent and they were getting more dangerous,” Serpa said, citing prosecution witnesses. “They had to separate themselves, all three of them, from [Kellar] at least twice, and then they finally kicked him out of the room.”

Kellar later returned, claiming he wanted to collect his phone charger, and allegedly tried to force his way through the partially closed door. Kellar attempted to do so by first attacking his girlfriend, then Rodgers’s wife, and was moving to attack Rodgers himself, Serpa said.

“[Kellar] barged his way into the room and starting beating everybody up,” said Serpa. “They are all in a hotel room. There is only one way out. And this guy is completely out of control. [Kellar] ended up with a stab wound just below his shoulder. This is what [it] took to stop him.”

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In Suffolk Superior Court Tuesday, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Tara Burdman said that after Kellar left the hotel room for the first time, Rodgers collected the knife from his backpack and placed it in his pants.

“The victim then came back to get his phone charger, and they didn’t want to let him in the room,” Burdman said. “There was some pushing and shoving between the victim and his sister — and Mr. Rodgers came over and stabbed the victim in the back.”

Rodgers has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder and was in court Tuesday asking Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders to set bail conditions Rodgers could meet.

But Burdman argued that the judge should keep a no-bail order imposed Monday in Boston Municipal Court, citing the defendant’s lack of ties to Massachusetts.

“He lives in New Hampshire, his family’s in New Hampshire. He had represented during an interview with the detectives that he has never at any point in time, lived in Massachusetts, in fact he was just here... for a weekend for a birthday celebration,” Burdman said.

Much of Rodgers’s family joined Tuesday’s bail review hearing on Zoom to provide support.

In court, Serpa said Rodgers had previously been arrested twice but had never served jail time.

Rodgers and Kellar were longtime good friends, Serpa said, and Rodgers often served as a mentor to Kellar, who struggled with anger control issues.

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“The tragedy in this is that Chris and Ren were really good friends,” Serpa said. “Ren cared for him, loved him. But he was put in a situation where there was so much danger in that room at that time, he had no choice but to protect the people. It was an impossible choice.”

He said that a similar incident happened in Rhode Island, where Keller vowed to kill the other three while they slept — and they chose to sleep somewhere else out of concern for their personal safety.

“He’s done everything right in his life and [it’s] just a horrible thing to be in this position,” Serpa said. “Chris didn’t deserve this. Nobody does. But from what [prosecution] witnesses are saying it was an impossible situation in that hotel room.”

Sanders ruled that Rodgers should remain without bail.

“There’s no question that it was a stab in the back. There’s certainly some mitigating circumstances, but at this point two days into the case I’m not prepared to reduce or set a bail,” she said.

Charlie McKenna can be reached at charlie.mckenna@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @charliemckenna9.


John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.