West Stockbridge woman to face vehicular homicide charge in January crash

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PITTSFIELD — A West Stockbridge woman has been indicted on multiple charges, including vehicular homicide, for allegedly driving drunk during a crash that killed a Pittsfield man.

Michelle S. Curletti, 42, will be arraigned in Berkshire Superior Court on June 25 after a grand jury handed up an indictment in the crash that killed Francis Kesse, 33.

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.

Curletti was heading south on Route 7 shortly after 11 p.m. Jan. 11 when her 2016 BMW swerved into the northbound lane and struck a 2015 Toyota RAV4 driven by Fidelis N. Morkeh, 40, of Pittsfield, according to Stockbridge police. The impact caused the Toyota to spin, leave the roadway and hit a tree on the rear passenger's side. Morkeh and two other passengers in the SUV were treated at Berkshire Medical Center for injuries.

Curletti pleaded not guilty in Southern Berkshire District Court on Feb. 4 to charges of vehicular homicide while operating under the influence of alcohol, OUI causing serious bodily injury and negligent operation. She was released into her own custody with the conditions that she not drive, obey all local and federal state laws and remain drug- and alcohol-free.

The case was transferred out of District Court last week, and the grand jury indicted her on the same charges.

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Under state law, conviction of the vehicular homicide charge carries a potential state prison sentence ranging from 21/2 to 15 years, and a fine of up to $5,000, or imprisonment in a county jail for one to 21/2 years and a fine of up to $5,000. The law states that the sentence cannot be reduced to less than one year or suspended, nor is there eligibility for probation, parole or furlough until one year has been served.

The second count, associated with the injury to passenger Augustine Owusu, has a potential penalty of 21/2 to 10 years in state prison, with a fine up to $5,000 or imprisonment in a county jail for 6 months to 21/2 years with the same fine, and no eligibility for probation, parole or furlough until at least six months has been served.

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.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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