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Massena man pleads guilty to August pedestrian death

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CANTON — The Massena man charged with running down a pedestrian and killing him while under the influence of drugs and alcohol has pleaded guilty to reduced charge.

James A. Berry, 22, of 36 Park Ave., pleaded guilty to a felony count of criminally negligent homicide and driving while ability impaired by drugs in St. Lawrence County Court.

On Aug. 2, Berry’s car struck Edward S. Remington, 46, of 155 E. Orvis St., Apt. 9, Massena, as Mr. Remington was walking home from Woody’s General Store at 8:48 p.m. on East Orvis Street with his girlfriend.

Court documents reported Mr. Remington suffered multiple skull fractures and internal injuries, bleeding in his cranial cavity and several other fractures. He died the following day at Fletcher Allen Health Care, Burlington, Vt.

A St. Lawrence County grand jury originally charged Mr. Berry Sept. 26 with second-degree vehicular manslaughter and DWAI by a combination of drugs and alcohol, a misdemeanor.

He is expected to be sentenced to no more than six months in St. Lawrence County jail and five years’ probation, according to District Attorney Mary E. Rain.

Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 3, and Mr. Berry was released under probation supervision.

Massena Village Police Ptl. Cody Wilson, in a statement included in court documents, said Berry admitted he had consumed a LaBatt’s Blue Light tall boy and two Bud Light Platinums earlier in the evening before going to Taco Bell for dinner with his girlfriend, Aquarra S. Weegar, Chase Mills.

The village patrolman said Berry told him they then went to Sunoco on Main Street before heading down East Orvis Street toward the Parker Avenue intersection.

“James stated that he was probably going a little too fast but it was (definitely) not over 32 mph. James stated that he looked up and focused on the light over East Orvis Street at the Parker Avenue intersection and didn’t see anything in the roadway,” according to Ptl. Wilson’s statement.

“James stated that all of a sudden he saw an oxygen tank and felt the vehicle hit a person. James states that after he hit the person he saw it was an older man and that the older man hit the pavement hard. James stated that he hit the brakes and pulled over. James then got out of his vehicle and started freaking out until the police arrived,” the village patrolman added, noting Berry also told him he would not give or sign a statement about the incident.

Mr. Remington’s girlfriend, Kimberly Tassie, said the couple were returning home after a quick trip to Woody’s Store to buy soda when the accident occurred. She said she was walking ahead of Mr. Remington but turned around moments before the accident.

“I turned around and saw a truck come out of nowhere and hit Ed. The truck flung Ed’s body and then drove over Ed. The vehicle stopped and then drove over Ed’s stomach again. The vehicle must have been going fast because I didn’t even see it coming,” Ms. Tassie noted in her statement to police.

She said she had a brief conversation with the driver of the pickup truck and then contacted police. “The driver said, ‘I didn’t see him.’ I then yelled at the driver, ‘How could you not see him? You hit him and then backed back over him.’ The driver then again stated, ‘I didn’t see him,’” she added.

Michael R. Hart told police he was driving on East Orvis Street and witnessed the accident. He said he saw the truck hit a person and then drag the person for 15 to 20 feet.

“The driver of the truck then tried to back up and leave the scene. When I realized what the driver was about to do, I pulled over and blocked the truck in so he could not leave. I then jumped out and ran over to help the guy lying in the road. I moved the oxygen tank that was laying in the road out of the way because it was leaking,” Mr. Hart said in his statement.

Ms. Weegar told police she had been looking down at her phone and didn’t witness the accident but heard her boyfriend shout “Oh my God, ” and looked up just in time to see something fly up. She said when she and Berry exited the truck they saw a man lying in the street. She said a short time later someone told her boyfriend to move his truck and then turn it off so it didn’t cause the leaking oxygen tank to explode.

“As Alex finished pulling forward, another truck came up to the side of his and the driver got out,” Ms. Weegar told police.

She also told police she hadn’t seen her boyfriend drinking Friday evening.

“I don’t remember seeing Alex drink alcohol at any time while we were together. He does take Xanex but only in the morning. Alex has been going to chemical dependency as well as probation every week,” she added in her statement to police.

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