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Sun., Oct. 4
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Woman sent to prison over death of former Lewis planner


LOWVILLE — A former Watertown woman was sent to state prison Friday in the case of what the judge called “vehicular Russian roulette” that caused the death one year ago of Lewis County’s senior planner.

“Your conduct was unconscionable beyond belief, and it was tragic beyond belief,” acting County Judge Donald E. Todd told Deborah Aguirre-Kerwin before sentencing her to the 413 to 13 years in prison that had been specified in her plea deal. “And it’s a tragedy that can never be repaired.”

Ms. Aguirre-Kerwin, 40, pleaded guilty March 5 to aggravated vehicular homicide in the crash that killed Renee J. Beyer, 39, of Martinsburg, on April 13, 2013.

She additionally was sentenced in Lewis County Court to $16,721.31 in restitution, $325 in court fees and revocation of her driver’s license.

She has admitted that while she was under the influence of the prescription painkiller Soma, she drove into the path of the vehicle Mrs. Beyer was driving on Route 12 in the town of Harrisburg. Mrs. Beyer died two days later in a Syracuse hospital.

“There’s nothing I can do to bring justice to everyone in this room,” Judge Todd said before sentencing, noting he cannot bring Mrs. Beyer back.

The judge added that while he is not in a position to judge Ms. Aguirre-Kerwin’s morality or sincerity, he did take offense at the fact that she was involved in a few prior incidents involving prescription drugs since 2006 and apparently never sought help to curb her painkiller addiction.

“Saying you’re sorry now is way too late, because you had every opportunity in the world to do something and you didn’t,” Judge Todd said.

Sarah J. Bullock, the county’s acting director of community services and a former colleague of Mrs. Beyer in the county economic development and planning office, in court read letters written by Mrs. Beyer’s husband, Dean, and Mr. Beyer’s mother, Nancy.

“Deborah took a plea to get a reduced sentence, but I have to do a double life sentence with my two children,” Mr. Beyer wrote.

He also suggested that the defendant’s past “eye-opening experiences” should have caused a change in behavior well before last April’s crash.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Mr. Beyer wrote. “This should never have happened. If the system worked, she wouldn’t have been driving.”

“Renee’s family will always have the loss of a wife and mother,” Nancy Beyer wrote.

Mrs. Beyer’s sister, Jolene Chrzanowski, also spoke, expressing the loss to the family and community of someone with a zest for life and a passion for her family and career.

“It’s a heart-wrenching feeling that each of us will carry with us for the rest of our lives,” she said.

Mrs. Chrzanowski echoed sentiments that the crash was not an accident but a result of poor decisions by Ms. Aguirre-Kerwin.

“It’s time you pay the price for the choices that you made and the life you took,” she said.

District Attorney Leanne K. Moser said that while Ms. Aguirre-Kerwin apparently accepts responsibility for her actions, she sees a “bit of falseness” because of the lack of evidence that she truly sought treatment for her addiction, even in the months following the fatal crash.

Ms. Aguirre-Kerwin in court expressed remorse for her actions and said she deserved whatever sentence was forthcoming.

“The thought of the pain I’ve caused is heart-wrenching,” she said.

Defense attorney Jill F. Spielmann said her client took painkillers as a coping mechanism that ultimately led to addiction and hopes someday to help others avoid the same mistake.

“She wants to go to prison and be a better person coming out than going in,” the attorney said.

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