Lenox man gets up to six years for fatal crash in 2011


PITTSFIELD -- A Lenox man was sentenced to up to six years in prison on Wednesday for his role in a fiery crash that killed a 17-year-old girl in December 2011.

Philip K. Baruch Jr., 19, delivered a a grief-filled apology to the family and friends of the victim, Remy Kirshner, of Lenox, during an emotional hearing in Berkshire Superior Court. And he hung his head as Kirshner's sister and parents told the court of the heart-wrenching pain they suffer on a daily basis as the result of Baruch's actions.

"All the happiness we were meant to feel was taken away," said Barbara Kirshner, the victim's mother. "Nothing is normal anymore."

Alix Kirshner, Remy's older sister, told the court "her very identity" had changed with the loss of her sister and best friend, since now she was an only child.

"Nothing prepared me for this," Kevin Kirshner said of his daughter's death.

The victim was described as a young woman who "lit up a room" when she would enter, had an infectious laugh, lived "in the moment" and was loved and respected by all who knew her.

Baruch was impaired and driving over the speed limit about 12:45 a.m., on Dec. 30, 2011, when he failed to negotiate a turn and crashed his father's BMW into a tree on Greylock Street near the intersection with Maple Street in Lee, according to Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Gregory Barry. The car burst into flames, killing Kirshner, who was trapped in the passenger seat by wreckage.

Baruch, who was able to escape the wreckage, suffered a broken wrist and other injuries. He initially told police that he had been alone in the car, according to Barry.

The prosecutor said Baruch's blood alcohol content was 0.09, which is above the legal limit, and that his blood tested positive for marijuana and opiates as well.

At the time of the crash, Baruch was a senior at Lenox Memorial High School and has since graduated. Kirshner was a junior at the same school.

On Wednesday, the families of both victim and defendant, sitting on opposite sides of the court room, tried to hold back their sobs during the hearing.

"A sense of sadness exists here too," attorney Leonard H. Cohen told the court, his hand on Baruch's shoulder.

According to Cohen, Baruch told him that he didn't want anyone to speak on his behalf. He said he was guilt-ridden by what happened and was ready to accept his punishment.

"I am truly sorry," Baruch told Kirshner's family. "What I did was terrible ... My bad choices ... caused the death of my friend."

He said since the crash he has become a born-again Christian, which has provided him with a sense of "hope."

Baruch pleaded guilty to single counts of vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol, operating to endanger and speeding.

Judge Daniel A. Ford told both the victim's family and Baruch that they had all behaved "with dignity" during the hearing. He followed the joint recommendation of at least four years and no more than six years at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on the vehicular homicide charge. The speeding charge was placed on file.

The investigation was conducted by Lee Police with the Accident Reconstruction Unit of the Massachusetts State Police. Lenox Police also assisted with the investigation.

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