HACKENSACK—A Fort Lee man pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he killed his girlfriend in a brutal hit-and-run attack outside the on Feb. 21.
Bergen County prosecutors charged Charles J. Ann, 26, with murder after he allegedly ran down his girlfriend, Aena Hong, 25, of Fort Lee, with his car after an argument, and then drove over her repeatedly in front of multiple witnesses.
An expressionless Ann, wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs, was lead into the courtroom, where a court-appointed interpreter placed a device in his ear. Ann stared straight ahead, making eye contact with no one, as Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Wayne Mello described the charges against him, "that Ann purposely or knowingly caused the death or injuries that lead to the death of [Hong]."
Ann's attorney, Public Defender Jaclyn Medina, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silebi reinstated the $3 million bail with no 10 percent option that was previously set upon Ann's arrest, adding that should Ann make bail, he is to have no contact with Hong's family. He would also have to surrender his passport, and he cannot be in possession of any weapons or firearms.
The case will now proceed to the grand jury, and an arraignment will be set after an indictment is handed up.
Ann was remanded to the Bergen County Jail after the roughly five-minute hearing.
Outside the Bergen County Courthouse, Medina offered little information in a briefing with the press.
Medina said there has been no discovery, in which both parties exchange information regarding evidence and related facts of the case. She also said a 5A, or an application to be assigned a public defender, has been filed.
She declined to comment on Ann's demeanor in court, his state of mind or his English abilities.
None of Ann's or Hong's friends or family appeared to be present at Monday's hearing.
Ann was arrested at about 4 a.m. on Feb. 21, at a friend’s apartment in Flushing, Queens, after a roughly 11-hour manhunt.
The incident occurred at about 4:55 p.m. Feb. 20, near the intersection of Anderson Avenue and Inwood Terrace in Fort Lee, according to authorities. Witnesses reported seeing Ann flee the scene of the attack in his black 2011 Hyundai Sonata before responding officers arrived to find Hong in the road with what authorities described as “grave injuries.”
Hong was transported to Holy Name Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 5:54 pm., according to authorities.
Police say Ann subsequently ditched his car on 10th Street in Fort Lee.
At the time of his arrest in Queens, Ann, a naturalized U.S. citizen, who has been in the country for about 10 years, was in possession of his passport and a large amount of cash, according to authorities. Authorities believe the unemployed Ann, who they say may have been taking “a class or classes” at Bergen Community College, was planning to flee the country, possibly to his native South Korea.
Hong was an aspiring artist who had been in the U.S. for about two and a half years on a student visa to study English at a school in Fort Lee, authorities have said. According to those who knew her, she had aspirations of attending art school in New York City.
Reports have varied as to whether Ann and Hong were still a couple at the time of the fatal hit-and-run. Citing unnamed New Jersey investigators, the New York Post recently reported that Hong had been trying to break up with Ann, going as far as getting an order of protection against him.
Authorities initially said the couple was involved in what they described as a “tumultuous dating relationship” but provided no further details supporting that.
Ann was extradited to New Jersey Friday morning and transported to the Bergen County Jail. Authorities first took Ann to the for fingerprinting and photographing.