This year got off to a violent start in the Berkshires when, Mark Steele-Knudslien says, he "snapped," hit his wife in the head with a hammer, stabbed her through the heart and wrapped her body in a tarp. Christa Steele-Knudslien was believed to be the first transgender person in the U.S. to succumb to violence in 2018.

The Jan. 4 homicide was the first of the year locally, but hardly the last.

Major acts of violence included alleged domestic violence incidents like the Steele-Knudslien homicide, and ended with a flurry of shootings and a fatal stabbing — the last of which prompted action from Pittsfield leaders and community advocates.

Vehicular violence also took a toll in Berkshire County this year, with the Berkshires recording one of the highest motor vehicle fatality rates in the state in recent years.

The story that Mark Steele-Knudslien told about his wife's death echoed a common refrain from cases of domestic violence. They are fighting, and then things take a turn.

It wasn't the only domestic violence-related death in the county this year. Kassedi Clark, 24, allegedly was shot by her children's father during an argument.

"I shot her; she was going to take everything," Michael Boulais told police. "I should have shot myself. What did I do? I shot her."

Janis Broderick, executive director of the Elizabeth Freeman Center, said these events "rocked communities."

"It's been a tough year, but it's also been a real incredible year in terms of communities coming together to address these issues," she said.

Broderick said the incidents drew the attention of political leaders, and spurred more requests from the center for workshops and trainings.

"I'm hoping all the community work that's been going on will continue and get stronger," she said of the year to come. "It's not simple; it's not easy, but violence is preventable."

In another type of violence, Andrew Gombar's alleged attacks on women in south county put the region on edge this year.

Gombar, 34, of New York, allegedly tried to kidnap and rape a woman in January, after she left her evening shift at the Lipton Mart on Stockbridge Road in Great Barrington. While out on bail in July, Gombar allegedly grabbed another woman by the neck and tried to force her off the trail at Olivia's Overlook in Stockbridge.

Gun, knife violence

In Pittsfield, summer brought a frenzy of violent activity that culminated in two homicides. Three men face charges in the death of William Catalano, 34, found stabbed Oct. 15 on the sidewalk near 219 Robbins Ave.

And in a shooting that killed David Green, a man from the Bronx, N.Y., faces a murder charge. Green was shot in the neck Nov. 3 while sitting in a Nissan pickup truck near Spring and Willow streets.

Catalano's death rattled the West Side neighborhood, prompting a community meeting held by city officials and neighborhood organizations with the goal of airing the problem of violence in the city. The conversation inspired the push for a community police center on Columbus Avenue, which West Side Neighborhood Initiative Chairwoman Linda Kelley said is moving along.

In the West Side, teenagers were injured in separate shootings in November and December. Other shootings, like one on Elm Street and another in Lee, injured others.

After each violent act, Kelley said, the Pittsfield community gets a little closer. The circumstances are unfortunate, she said, but the uniting force is a silver lining.

"I'm hopeful to be able to knit together the kinds of networks we need to have a safe and vibrant community here in the West Side and throughout Pittsfield," she said.

Similarly, the Carnevale family saw a surge of support after Nick Carnevale, 19, was shot twice in the head in August, after a party at Ashley Reservoir. As the teen continues to recover from his injuries, four Pittsfield men face charges in the shooting.

Vehicular violence

Motor vehicle crashes happen often, but not all of them result in death. Fewer, still, result in criminal charges filed against one of the drivers.

In February, 85-year-old Theresa Marby died after a hit-and-run in Adams. District Attorney Paul Caccaviello alleged that David Sookey Jr., 61, knocked her to the ground while backing up, ran her over and fled.

Great Barrington police said Annemarie Bushka, 64, was killed in April, after 68-year-old Robert Bacigalupi apparently crossed the center line on Maple Avenue in Lee and slammed into Bushka's vehicle.

In August, motorcyclist Alan Keefe, 49, was killed after colliding on Linden Street with Brian Dillard, who allegedly was driving a stolen motor vehicle with a suspended license on his way to buy drugs.

In September, Debra Milesi, 57, allegedly tried to flee the scene after she hit Jerome "Jeremy" Berard with her vehicle on East Hoosac Road in North Adams. A witness told police that Milesi tried to drag Berard, who later succumbed to his injuries, from the road.

Milesi had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.161 percent, more than twice the legal limit, according to the police report.

Berkshire County had the highest crash fatality rates in 2016, according to data available through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and third highest in 2017. Data for this year aren't yet available.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.