YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A prosecutor today said that she will ask a grand jury to return murder charges against an 83-year-old Hasbrouck Heights man who authorities said shot and killed his tenant during an argument.
A judge agreed to reduce bail to $500,000 for John Wisse from the original $750,000 following a brief court hearing in Hackensack this afternoon.
“This is a very serious case,” Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Danielle Grootenboer told Presiding Superior Court Judge Susan J. Steele. “The evidence is quite clear, and ultimately will be unequivocal.
“The weapon was found at the scene,” Grootenboer said.
Wisse suffers from chronic hypertension and an irregular heartbeat, defense attorney Robert Galantucci said.
Wisse underwent prostate cancer surgery in 2013, the lawyer told the judge, and recently had to be transferred to Hackensack University Medical Center, where he remained under the guard of county sheriff’s officers.
“The court should not be deceived by his appearance,” Grootenboer countered. “Size doesn’t matter when you’re holding a gun. Age doesn’t matter when you hold a gun and pull the trigger….Notwithstanding his age, he had deadly accurate aim.”
The prosecutor also said that Wisse expressed suicidal thoughts a week before the Aug. 28 shooting, saying that he wanted to put himself in front of a train or moving vehicle.
In such a case, she said, “the lack of a gun may not be sufficient. If he wanted to place himself in front of a vehicle, others could be harmed.”
Steele said she had no opinions from experts about Wisse’s mental condition.
“I am concerned about this man’s health,” she said. “It sounds as if he’s been in a compromised physical condition.”
Steele reduced bail to “within the legal range” but mandated that Wisse wear a monitoring bracelet. She also maintained orders that he have no contact with the victim’s family or firearms.
If Wisse makes bail, he must either surrender his passport or provide a sworn statement that he doesn’t have one, Steele said. He must also stay in New Jersey while the case is pending.
Galantucci said his client, a former county employee, “has never been in trouble with the law before — not even a traffic ticket, as far as I can tell.”
A lifetime Bergen County resident, Wisse lives on his county pension and Social Security, Galantucci said.
“Even with a bail reduction within the legal range, it will be difficult for his family to put together the necessary funds,” he said.
Wisse’s sons were in court today, and the family was working toward having him home so that he can be with his children and grandchildren, Galantucci said. They are exploring placement options such as assisted living, he said.
Wisse was arrested by Hasbrouck Heights police after he called 911 to report the incident. They found Velardi dead from a single .38-caliber gunshot to the chest.
STORY / PHOTOS: Courthouse Reporter Mary K. Miraglia
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