Essex County News

Undocumented Newark Man Sentenced to Three Years for Fatal Verona Hit-and-Run


NEWARK, NJ - Jose Asencio, 44, of Newark was sentenced to three years in prison in Essex County Superior Court on Friday for leaving the scene of the hit-and-run accident that killed Matthew BeneduceMcGrath, 59 of Verona on June 24.   

BeneduceMcGrath was struck and killed while crossing the street at Bloomfield Avenue and Hillcrest Terrace near his business, Benegrathic Sign Design. 

Prosecutors state that Asencio was in the country illegally. After reviewing nearby surveillance cameras, police caught up to him nearly a month later and arrested him.

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On Jan. 20 Asencio had plead guilty to leaving the scene of the fatal accident that occurred on June 26, 2016. His defense counsel expressed that Asencio was remorseful for his actions and will most likely be deported, thus arguing for a lesser sentence.

Asencio was born in Guatemala and lived in Mexico when he was a teen, before coming to the United States 15 years ago. He is a painter by profession.

According to reports, Asencio left the scene of the accident and returned later that evening to join the crowd of people gathered at the scene. His defense attorney painted the picture that Asencio was compassionate and wanted to make sure someone had come to BeneduceMcGrath’s aid. However, instead of turning himself in, he then left, not saying a word to anyone. His attorney argued that he only left for fear of deportation. This was Asencio's biggest mistake, the judge told him during sentencing.

BeneduceMcGrath had lived in Verona for the past 29 years. His wife, Gloria, of 32 years did not attend the sentencing and sent a letter expressing her grief, which was read aloud by prosecutors.

BeneduceMcGrath was most known for his artwork in creating signs for businesses located in Verona, Cedar Grove, Montclair, and many other towns. He also created signs located at the entrance of many of the Essex County Parks.

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