WARREN, Mich. - As a freelance photographer at WXYZ-TV, Chris Zehnpfenning was accustomed to covering big stories. But, that all changed in July of 2019, when he suddenly became the story.
Zehnpfenning was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Kenneth Klinger.
“To see that about yourself, it’s a bit detaching because you know yourself and you’re not capable of anything that evil, like I wasn’t raised that way,” Zehnpfenning said.
On Wednesday, the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office dropped the charges, after Zehnpfenning’s attorney, Robbie Lang, determined there wasn’t any evidence of any facts to prove his client committed a crime.
“Robbie is just an amazing attorney,” Zehnpfenning said. “It’s funny because my parents just happened to find his name in a phone book and they got the best guy ever.”
This story actually began back on July, 3, 2019. Zehnpfenning, just 23-year-old at the time, and his friends were leaving a party in Troy. They had never met Klinger, but he was a friend of a friend and he needed a place to sleep for the night.
While Zehnpfenning was driving everyone home, he said Klinger started attacking his friend who was in the back seat.
“The altercation begins, he puts Nate in a choke hold and we basically had instincts to defend ourselves at that point,” he said.
Zehnpfenning then pulled into a parking lot off of Mound Road in Warren and he said they got the man out the car. He continued to be combative, and they eventually drove away - leaving Klinger in the parking lot.
“It was very scary and very quick,” Zehnpfenning said. “I think the whole thing lasted about 10 minutes.”
But when they returned hours later to get Zehnpfenning’s shoes that he said fell off in the altercation, the three friends were taken to the Warren Police Department for questioning.
“After that we had found out he passed away, which was horrible,” he said. “We had no idea. We then found out we were charged with involuntary manslaughter.”
Police contended that the three men beat the victim to death. The medical examiner determined Klinger died of a blunt force trauma to the head. But, after seeing a video of the victim stumbling towards the road, the medical examiner changed the matter of death from homicide to indeterminate.
The head injuries were consistent with being hit by the tire of a car.
Those new developments in the case, prompted prosecutors to drop all charges.
Warren Police Commissioner, Bill Dwyer, said he is disappointed the charges were dropped and that he stands by his department and believes the detectives did an outstanding job with the case.