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Ex-Watertown woman admits causing Lewis County planner’s death in car crash

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LOWVILLE — A former Watertown woman admitted to causing the motor vehicle collision in April that killed Lewis County’s senior planner.

Deborah Aguirre-Kerwin, 40, who in Lewis County Court on Wednesday indicated that she recently has been living near Copenhagen, pleaded guilty to the top count of aggravated vehicular homicide, also satisfying charges of second-degree manslaughter, driving while ability impaired by drugs, seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, failure to keep right and driving left of pavement markings, to avoid a trial slated for later this month.

Based on a plea deal, she is to face 413 to 13 years in state prison, along with possible restitution and court fees, at sentencing May 9, according to acting County Judge Donald E. Todd.

That is about half of the prison term of 813 to 25 years to which she could be sentenced if convicted of the Class B felony at trial, he said. Ms. Aguirre-Kerwin admitted that while she was under the influence of the painkiller Soma, she drove into the path of an oncoming vehicle driven by Renee J. Beyer, 39, on April 13 on Route 12 in the town of Harrisburg. Mrs. Beyer died a few days later in a Syracuse hospital.

Following the plea, Judge Todd sent the defendant to Lewis County jail without bail to await sentencing.

“In part, I’m doing this to protect you from yourself,” the judge said.

District Attorney Leanne K. Moser said afterward that the plea will allow Mrs. Beyer’s family, friends and coworkers — many of whom filled about half of the courtroom Wednesday — to avoid sitting through a trial. But it obviously won’t bring her back, she said.

“Does a plea always make it better? Of course not,” Ms. Moser said.

If anything, the district attorney said, she hopes that cases like this will caution people of the dangers of prescription drug abuse and impaired driving.

“It’s completely, completely avoidable,” she said.

The plea deal is conditional on Ms. Aguirre-Kerwin’s waiving her right to appeal, avoiding further crimes before sentencing, cooperating with the Lewis County Probation Department on a presentencing evaluation and showing up for her next court appearance.

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