FORT LEE — Authorities charged a 26-year-old Fort Leeman with the murder of his girlfriend, who he is accused of repeatedly running over before fleeing to a friend’s New York apartment, the prosecutor’s office said.
Charles J. Ann is accused of running over Aena Hong, 25, also of Fort Lee, police said. Hong, who was trying to end a tumultuous relationship with Ann, was arguing with him while she walked along an Inwood Terrace sidewalk near Anderson Avenue about 5 p.m. Monday.
Ann is accused of driving away but turning around, at one point driving through a parking lot, and turning left onto Inwood Terrace before he came to a complete stop. As Hong crossed the street, Ann is accused of rapidly accelerating and hitting her, said First Assistant Prosecutor John L. Higgins III.
“Once she fell to the ground, he drove over her and drove back over her approximately three times,” Higgins said the evidence shows.
Investigators believe Ann fled and abandoned the vehicle. Investigators found a 2011 Hyundai Sonata on Tenth Avenue registered to Ann a few hours after the alleged attack. Accident investigators determined it was the vehicle used to strike and kill Hong.
Police received several 911 calls about a pedestrian being struck and the car fleeing the scene. Responding officers found Hong in the middle of the road with grave injuries.
She was transported to Holy Name Medical Center where she was pronounced dead just before 6 p.m.
Ann is accused of fleeing to Flushing, Queens, N.Y. Investigators arrested him at 4 a.m. Tuesday at a friend’s apartment in the neighborhood. Ann was charged with first-degree-murder, and he is being held on $3 million bail. Prosecutors are waiting on an extradition waiver from New York to set a court date in Bergen County.
At the time of his arrest, police believe Ann, an unemployed student, was trying to flee the country because he was found with his passport and a large sum of cash. Investigators are trying to determine where the money came from, Higgins said.
Ann is a naturalized citizen but has ties to his native Korea, where his relatives still live. He emigrated from the country in 2009.
Ann had been dating Hong for about a year. Investigators believe the couple was arguing about a breakup, but it was unclear if it had just occurred.
Hong was in the country on a student visa. None of her relatives live in the United States, Higgins said, adding investigators notified her family in South Korea.
She attended the JBC Language School, near Ann’s apartment complex. She was studying to take the English as a Foreign Language test and wanted to go into animation for a career in film, said one of her teachers, Mira Park.
“She was an excellent student,” Park said. “She was a sweet girl.”
Park met Ann and said the couple had been having issues for about a month, adding the last time she saw him he was agitated. Park last saw Hong on Thursday.
“It’s terrible,” she said of Hong’s killing. “I’m shocked. I can’t believe someone I just saw Thursday was murdered.”
Another teacher, Graham Frye, said the first time he saw Ann was when he walked into one of Hong’s classes.
“He came in and was angry about something,” Frye said. “He gave her — it looked like a lot of money to me. He threw the envelope on the table.”
Frye described the relationship as tense, and said Hong was a very friendly person.
A woman who lives in the same Bridge Plaza North apartment complex as Ann said she just saw the couple about 1 a.m. a couple days ago.
“They looked happy to me,” said Stephanie Tiram. “They were holding hands. They were walking in. I was walking out.”
Tiram said she didn’t know Ann well, but they would pass each other in the hallway and say “Hi.” She said she usually saw his girlfriend when she visited or dropped off Ann at the apartment building.
“I’ve never seen him angry,” she said. “He says hello. He says goodbye. I didn’t think he was capable of such a thing.”
Several people witnessed the crash, including one man who tried to stop the car.
Hasmik Manoukian heard the loud revving of a car’s engine Monday evening. Her husband ran out of the couple’s home to see if he could help.
“‘He is killing a lady,’” Manoukian recalled her husband saying before running out the back door.
Manoukian said her husband ran out, tried the driver’s side door and wanted to pull the driver out of the window.
“He was going to take him out and hit him,” Manoukian said.
She described the victim as a young Korean woman in a black hat and black jacket. The woman’s sneakers, Manoukian said, were at least three feet away from the body.
Gene Hoffman, the store manager of a nearby Wells Fargo, heard tires screech four times in a row while he was on a conference call. He said he then heard a scream. Hoffman went outside and saw a man who witnessed the crash resting against a parked car, crying and pointing to a body in the middle of the road.
“I’m a vet,” said Hoffman, who said he served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. “I was overseas. I haven’t seen anything this horrific since I got back.”
Hoffman said the body was so mangled he could not tell whether the victim was a man or a woman. He did not see the person’s chest moving and said there were no signs of life. He believes the crash was intentional.
“It’s just a horrific tragedy,” he said, adding he could not sleep Monday night and had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder flashbacks from the war. “For this to happen in front of your work — I can’t believe it.”
Anastasia Nannas, a resident in the neighborhood, said she came home and saw police lights.
“We don’t get news like this around here,” Nannas said. “This is a nice neighborhood. This is very sad, what happened.”