YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A grand jury in Hackensack today returned aggravated manslaughter charges against a Morris County man who authorities said beat his friend to death after their car crashed on Route 80 in Elmwood Park following a ZZ Top concert in Englewood.
Jared Clackner, 54, “left the scene of the injury knowing or reasonably believing that William K. Henning was physically helpless, mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to care for himself,” the indictment returned today says.
This followed him “recklessly causing the death of [Henning] under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life,” it says.
Clackner was a passenger in a blue 1996 Oldmobile Sierra driven by Henning, 61, that New Jersey State Police said crashed into a guardrail at milepost 61.6 during an argument between the two Denville men following a BergenPAC concert the night of March 10.
Defense attorney Timothy Smith previously contended that authorities over-charged his client and that both threw punches.
Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer countered that Clackner — a self-employed painter and father of two — beat his friend to death with his fists.
“It wasn’t even a fight,” she said adding that Henning never connected.
Clackner told State Police that he “hit him as hard as he could, then walked away” — leaving Henning to die of blunt-force trauma from the blows, which included several broken ribs, Grootenboer contended at an earlier court appearance.
Sources told CLIFFVIEW PILOT that when police arrived, Henning was partially out of the car, which was still in drive up against the guardrail. They picked up Clackner further down the highway, they said.
Clacknear has remained free on $300,000 bail, posted eight days after his arrest.
STORY / FILE PHOTOS: CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia