TOMS RIVER – Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels released Edward Chandler, 54, of Manalapan from the Ocean County Jail today. Chandler threw a punch that caused the death of a 78-year-old man at the Lakeside Diner in Lacey last week.
According to an unnamed source who contacted Jersey Shore Online, letters of support were presented to the judge by Chandler’s attorney which described him as the unofficial mayor of his town. It was also stated that he was going to the defense of a friend when he threw the punch that led to the death of Robert Clarke, 78, of the Whiting section of Manchester Township.
Judge Daniels released Chandler who was facing aggravated manslaughter and aggravated assaulted charges from the altercation that occurred on September 30.
Chandler had his back turned in the diner’s parking lot when Clarke started rushing toward him. Chandler told authorities that he heard someone say “knife,” before he punched Clarke once in the face. Clarke fell to the ground after being struck which caused a fatal injury. He was bleeding from the head and airlifted to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune for treatment but died around 1:30 a.m. at the hospital..
Clarke was at the Lacey based diner with a female friend for a birthday celebration when the woman, later identified by police as Kathryn Conklin, started an argument with others due to being asked to leave a motorcycle charity club according to Asst. Ocean County Prosecutor Jenna Moscato.
According to police, Conklin, also known as “Kit,” was kicked out of a club called “the Wawa Crew.” Lacey Township Police responded to a 911 call around 7:30 p.m. that evening about an unresponsive man at the Lakeside Diner on Lacey Road. The owner of the diner asked those involved with the argument to leave but afterwards a second argument developed in the parking lot.
Chandler was arrested and remained at the Ocean County Jail until his release this morning. Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said after Chandler’s arrest that a post-mortem examination of Clarke was conducted by the Ocean County Medical Examiner. The Medical Examiner determined the cause of the victim’s death to be closed head injury secondary to a fall, and the manner of death to be homicide.
Prosecutor Billhimer said previously that based upon the Medical Examiner’s findings and information developed “in furtherance of the continuing investigation, Chandler has been identified as the individual responsible for Mr. Clarke’s death, and has now been charged accordingly.”
Chandler, who admitted to punching Clarke told police he had not actually seen a knife, according to Moscato. Moscato had requested to Judge Daniels that Chandler remain in jail without bail until his trial expressing concern that Chandler might not appear in court. Chandler could face 30 years or more in prison if convicted of aggravated manslaughter.
Moscato pointed out that Chandler previously served time for two convictions for driving during a period of license suspension, illustrating he could not obey the court’s decisions.
Chandler was described in letters from his supporters as being a generous, well respected member of his community as well as caring and loving father and husband who has the nickname of Manalapan’s mayor. It was stated in the letters that he had taken people and animals in to his home, in the past.
Assistant Prosecutor Michael Abatemarco and Detective James Dishon are involved with the investigation of the case according to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. Both were contacted in reference to Chandler’s release and a request was made for further comment from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office regarding Judge Daniel’s decision to release Chandler. At press time no further comment has been received.