Berlin woman sentenced for fatal crash
BRENTWOOD — A Berlin woman was sentenced six to 14 years in state prison for drunken driving and fatally striking a Massachusetts man who pulled over to change a flat tire along Interstate 93 in Windham.
Pauline Kochaniec, 48, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, reckless conduct and aggravated drunken on Friday in Rockingham County Superior Court for causing the death of Angel Luis Gonzalez, 45, of Chelsea, Mass., last year.
Gonzalez was in the process of changing a flat tire near the southbound lane of the interstate when Kochaniec struck the rear of his vehicle, according to prosecutors. The crash happened around 9:45 p.m. last July 3.
One passenger along the roadside, Angela Bakaitas, sustained a fractured leg as a result of the crash, prosecutors said. Another passenger standing along the road’s shoulder, James Henley, was not hurt but prosecutors filed a reckless conduct charge against Kochaniec for putting him in danger.
Assistant County Attorney Howard Helrich said there was road construction where Gonzalez and his two passengers pulled over.
“The shoulder of the road was about 30 feet wide,” Helrich said. “They pulled well off the road, preparing to change the tire when she slammed into the rear of the vehicle.”
Helrich said Kochaniec’s blood-alcohol level was about three times the legal limit.
“The victims did everything right in this case. They pulled off to the safest location on the roadway,” Helrich said.
Judge David Anderson decided on the sentence after prosecutors and a public defender made arguments in court on Friday.
Helrich argued for an 8 ½ to 17 year prison term. Kochaniec received a five to 10 year sentence on the negligent homicide conviction and a 1 to 4 year prison term for aggravated drunken driving. She also received a suspended 3 ½ to 7 year prison term for reckless conduct. The case was investigated by the New Hampshire State Police.