NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Dusk fell around Salvadoran immigrant Abelino Mazaniego as he sat on a bench on a promenade in an upscale New York suburb after finishing up his restaurant shift. As night encroached, so did a group of teenagers, including one with a cell phone videocamera at the ready.
Then, authorities say, they beat him unconscious, with the camera rolling. Days later, the 47-year-old father of four was dead — but not before the video had been circulated among teenagers in Summit, N.J., authorities say. And not before a nurse in the emergency room where he was taken the night of July 17 was accused of pilfering several hundred dollars from his wallet.
The multi-layered attacks on Mazaniego’s body and dignity resulted in days of escalating court actions that culminated Tuesday in murder charges against three young men, ages 17, 18 and 19. A fourth teenager believed to have videotaped the attack hasn’t been charged, but authorities weren’t divulging details on the teen’s involvement or potential culpability.
Mazaniego was “quite a jolly gentleman,” Colin Crasto, manager and chef at Dabbawalla Indian restaurant, where the victim had worked for three years as a cook’s assistant, told WNBC-TV of New York. The videotaping makes the crime “more horrific,” he said.
Khayri Williams-Clark, 18, and an unidentified 17-year-old, both of Summit, were arrested Wednesday on manslaughter charges. Williams-Clark pleaded not guilty to the charge Friday.
Now they’re charged with murder, along with Nigel Dumas, 19, of Morristown. A message left with the public defender’s office, which is representing at least two of the suspects, was not immediately returned.
The 17-year-old is being held in the Union County juvenile detention center, while Williams-Clark is being held at the Union County jail on $100,000 bail, prosecutors said. Bail for Dumas, at the same jail, has been set at $250,000.
Authorities wouldn’t say how many teens were in the group or whether there would be more charges. They also weren’t discussing theories on the motive for the beating — whether it was Mazaniego’s background, a thrill killing or some other reason.
But it apparently wasn’t an attempt to get the $640 in cash that Mazaniego was carrying.
Police found the victim after the beating and took him to the hospital, where, officials say, nurse Stephan Randolph, 39, of Flemington, took the money out of the unconscious victim’s wallet.
Family members noticed the missing money and told authorities, who charged Randolph with third-degree theft Monday, six days after Mazaniego died.
Randolph could not be reached for comment by The Associated Press this week; a phone listed in his name rang unanswered.