Monday November 28, 2011

PITTSFIELD -- A Pittsfield woman was killed early Sunday after she stepped out of a moving car on Crane Avenue and struck her head, according to Pittsfield police.

Her husband was later arrested for leaving the scene of the accident.

Christine Benlien, 42, of 290 Crane Ave., was a passenger in a car driven by her husband about 1 a.m. when the couple got involved in an argument on the way home, police said.

Benlien apparently tried to exit the moving vehicle in front of 146 Crane Ave. when she fell to the ground and suffered a fatal head injury. It was not clear how fast the car was moving at the time of the incident.

Her husband, James Benlien, 45, stopped the car, but only long enough for the couple's 21-year-old daughter to get out to check on her mother, according to police. James Benlien then left the scene and drove home alone, where he was later arrested.

He was charged with operating under the influence of alcohol, second offense, and leaving the scene of an accident involving a fatality. He is being held on $50,000 bail and scheduled to be arraigned this morning in Central Berkshire District Court.

In August 2002, Benlien was arrested after he lost control of his vehicle and hit a parked police car, according to Eagle files. He allegedly fled the scene in that accident, as well, and was later arrested at his home on Day Street.

It was not clear on Sunday night whether he was convicted on any charges in the 2002 incident.

The family purchased the house at 290 Crane Avenue in 2007, according to Eagle files.

Police were still taking statements from witnesses and neighbors on Sunday night. The incident remains under investigation.

Crane Avenue is a largely residential street that connects North Street with the Allendale Center. The street was quiet on Sunday night, with many of the houses already festooned with Christmas ornamentation.