A Middle Keys man fresh out of state prison after serving time for manslaughter is back in jail following a drunk-driving crash in Marathon early Tuesday.
Frederick Berndt, 49, was arrested after backing a pickup truck into another one, then driving away after an argument with the other driver. He’s charged with driving under the influence, DUI-property damage, hit and run, and improper backing.
Berndt spent a little more than two years in prison (and two years before that in the Monroe County jail) after killing Kenneth Anderson, 41, a homeless man, on Jan. 19, 2012. Police said the two fought in the parking lot of the Dion’s Quik Mart between 62nd and 63rd streets oceanside in Marathon, and a medical examiner concluded Anderson died of blunt trauma to the head.
Berndt claimed he hit Anderson with his elbow, knocking him to the pavement. He told police Anderson staggered as he got up and that he help him “find a place to lie down.” But witnesses said they saw the two fighting and Berndt dragging Anderson on the ground. Anderson’s body was found in a homeless camp across U.S. 1 by another homeless man who lived there in a tent.
Berndt pleaded no contest to manslaughter on March 11, 2014, and received a five-year sentence. He was released from prison this past May 14.
In the Tuesday crash, troopers say Berndt was behind the wheel of a 2002 Ram 1500 around 2 a.m. on Knights Key Boulevard in Marathon and was stopped at the Knights Key Campground and Marina gatehouse. William Alch, 32, of Marathon was behind him in a 2001 Chevrolet Silverado. Berndt backed up and struck the Chevy and both drivers got out of their vehicles to discuss who would pay for the damage.
Berndt “became very hostile” and drove off when Alch told him he called police, Trooper Thomas Reilly wrote in a report. Troopers found Berndt and the truck he was driving at his home on 24th Street. Besides the auto-related charges, he could face charges for violating conditions of his supervised release from prison.
Berndt has an extensive arrest record and did several stints in prison in the past for arson, cocaine possession, felony battery and burglary, among other things.
Larry Kahn: 305-440-3218