Trucker's road rage may have fueled N.J. truck-stop attack, cops say


Tractor trailers hooked up to air conditioning services at the Petro truck stop in Bordentown Township in this file photo. (Michael Mancuso | The Times of Trenton)

BORDENTOWN TOWNSHIP — Authorities have charged a North Carolina trucker with a vicious attack on a fellow driver at a truck stop last month which police suspect was road rage following an incident on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Arnold Eckhardt, 50, of Spruce Pine, N.C. is charged with aggravated assault for allegedly beating a 60-year-old Rochester, N.Y. man at the Petro truck stop on Sept. 8, Bordentown Township police Capt. Brian Pesce said.

Eckhardt was arrested Saturday morning in Georgia by members of the Early County Sheriff's Office, who stopped his rig in Cedar Springs, a town in southwest Georgia not far from the Alabama border.

Bordentown detectives were tracking Eckhardt recently after identifying him as the alleged attacker, Pesce said.

Pesce said investigators have yet to speak with Eckhardt, and the victim does not recall a specific incident, but police believe something happened between the two drivers, or their trucks, on the turnpike.

Both drivers had just entered the truck stop when Eckhardt allegedly pulled the victim from his cab and unleashed a vicious assault, kicking and punching him in the head and neck, Pesce said.

"We believe this beating may have been caused by road rage," Pesce said.

Township police were called to the truck atop at about 8:30 p.m. that night for a reported fight between two truck drivers, but officers only found the victim, who was critically injured, Pesce said.

The victim, who police did not identify, was taken to Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton, where he underwent emergency surgery and had a prolonged hospital recovery.

Pesce said the victim is currently in a rehabilitation center close to his home in upstate New York.

Eckhardt fled the scene, Pesce said.

Detectives identified him through witness accounts and surveillance video and obtained a warrant for his arrest on second-degree aggravated assault charge.

After locating Eckhardt, Bordentown detectives contacted the U.S. Marshals Service, who assisted with tracking the suspect and the arrest, Pesce said.

Eckhardt is currently being held in the Early County Jail in Blakely, Ga. pending extradition to New Jersey, where he faces a $250,000 bail.

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