West Stockbridge woman pleads not guilty to OUI vehicular homicide in January crash

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PITTSFIELD — A West Stockbridge woman accused of driving drunk when she caused a January fatal crash remains free on personal recognizance after being arraigned Tuesday in Berkshire Superior Court.

Michelle S. Curletti, 43, appeared before Judge Mark Mason and entered not guilty pleas to one count each of vehicular homicide while operating under the influence of alcohol, OUI causing serious bodily injury, and negligent operation.

She was released with the condition that she not operate a motor vehicle.

Curletti is accused of being under the influence of liquor when her BMW crossed over the center lane of Route 7 shortly after 11 p.m. Jan. 11, and struck a Toyota SUV. The collision caused the SUV to spin, leave the road and hit a tree on its rear passenger side.

Francis Kesse, 33, a passenger in the SUV, died at Berkshire Medical Center from injuries sustained in the crash. Another passenger in the SUV, Augustine Owusu, suffered serious injuries.

Kesse had been riding home with his three co-workers from a night shift at Hillcrest Educational Center's Brookside Intensive Treatment Center in Great Barrington, where he had worked as a youth development professional for seven months.

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Kesse was a native of Ghana, where his wife and three young children live. He had been employed under a three-year guest worker visa, arranged and paid for by Hillcrest and renewable for three more years.

"He was considered a very good staff member who was well-liked and respected by the children that we serve," said Jerry Burke, president and CEO of Hillcrest Educational Centers, following the collision.

At the time of the accident, Curletti was employed at the Pittsfield office of the state Department of Children and Families as an area program manager. Shortly thereafter, she was placed on administrative leave in accordance with the commonwealth's code of conduct.

"She is no longer employed by the Department of Children and Families," a DCF spokesperson stated on Tuesday. Due to confidentiality requirements regarding personnel matters, there is no further information, according to DCF officials.

Curletti is represented by attorney Lori Levinson. She is due back in court on Nov. 7 for a pretrial hearing, with trial tentatively scheduled sometime in March.

Staff writer Clarence Fanto contributed to this story.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@berkshireeagle.com, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.


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