PITTSFIELD - Calling it the most disturbing vehicular homicide case he's presided over, a Superior Court judge sentenced a Connecticut man with a history of drunken driving convictions to up to 18 years in prison for causing the death of a Sheffield woman.
Frederick J. Weller, 36, is a "serious criminal at times a violent criminal" with "a clear disrespect for the law in every aspect," Judge John A. Agostini said.
Weller was drunk the night of Feb. 28, 2012, when he caused the multi-car accident on Route 7 in Sheffield that killed 24-year-old Moira Banks-Dobson and seriously injured former Great Barrington resident Russell Brown.
Weller, of Sandy Hook, Conn., pleaded guilty Thursday to vehicular homicide, a seventh drunken driving charge, and seven other charges.
Handing Weller 15 to 18 years at the Cedar Junction state prison, Agostini said he didn't believe jail would change Weller.
Weller wiped away tears when Banks-Dobsen's parents spoke about how the death of their daughter has devastated them.
"I still die every day to think that she's not here," Ann Banks told the court.
Her parents called their daughter a talented singer-songwriter who was intelligent, empathetic and a "stunning beauty."
Weller was driving in and out of the northbound lane of Route 7 just before colliding head-on with Brown's Dodge Neon.
Weller's truck then landed on top of Banks-Dobson's car. Banks-Dobson was pronounced dead at the scene.
Brown was injured seriously. He was comatose for weeks, couldn't walk for nearly a year, and almost died from a torn aorta suffered in the accident, according to Second Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Robert W. Kinzer III.
Brown has since moved to New Jersey. He said he still suffers from a traumatic brain injury and has $400,000 in unpaid medical bills that Weller's insurance didn't cover.
At the crash scene, Weller tried to flee and threatened to kill a bystander who tried to keep him from running away, said Kinzer.
In addition to Weller's numerous prior drunken driving convictions, he has a record of assaultive behavior, including a case in which he head-butted a nurse attempting to help him after a drunken driving accident, Kinzer said.
Defense attorney Nathaniel K. Green said his client was remorseful and had been exposed to alcohol and drugs in the womb and grew up in an alcoholic household. The 18 months Weller has spent in jail has been the longest time he's been sober since he started drinking at 13, said the attorney.
Green had asked for a 10- to 12-year prison sentence.
The Rev. Art Kaufman, a chaplain at Berkshire Medical Center, who met Weller while he was being treated for his injuries, spoke on his behalf. He said that in numerous conversations Weller expressed his deep and genuine remorse over his actions.
"I believe no human being is beyond redemption," Kaufman told the court.
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