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Army Sgt. Rene Berben Sentenced to Six Years in Fatal Crash

Berben admitted to driving drunk in a March 2011 accident in Deptford that killed a Runnemede man.

An Afghan War combat veteran and U.S. Army recruiter will spend six years in state prison after being sentenced Friday for that killed one man and injured two others.

Army Sgt. Rene Berben, 26, of Deptford, admitted to being more than four times over the legal limit when he crashed his pickup into a Nissan sedan on Route 41 in Deptford on March 19, 2011, killing Runnemede resident Steven Kennedy, 29.

Kennedy was acting as a designated driver at the time of the crash for his two passengers, Elisha Bailey, 52, and Dwayne Pettit, 28, according to his father, Bill Kennedy, who spoke at the sentencing.

“We have a lifetime of sorrow without Steve,” Bill Kennedy said.

About a dozen members of Kennedy’s family, many of them wearing T-shirts memorializing Steven Kennedy, attended the sentencing, which saw a contrite Berben apologize for his actions that night.

Berben said he consumed at least 10 drinks at Taylor’s Bar in Williamstown before the crash, leading to a blood-alcohol level of 0.342, slightly more than four times the legal limit of 0.08 in New Jersey.

In May, to second-degree vehicular homicide, third-degree assault by auto for injuring Bailey and Pettit and driving while intoxicated.

Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson imposed the six-year sentence recommended by the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office in the plea deal, and also imposed a concurrent 365-day prison sentence for assault by auto as well as a $300 drunk-driver fine. Berben will serve a seven-month driver’s license suspension after being released from prison.

Berben will have to serve 85 percent of his sentence—just over five years—before being eligible for parole. He’s currently in the process of being discharged from the Army.

Kristi Simpkins July 14, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Plea bargain or not, that sentence is a total JOKE! Plus he should be discharged from the Army. He's a disgrace to all men & women who wear a uniform. I just wish the sentence was longer & more harsh. Let the punishment equal the severity of his crimes. That also goes for anyone else who drinks & drives. Six years & being discharged from the Army, will never equal the amount of loss for those others that were affected from his selfishness.
Mandy July 18, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Its sad for both familys I know from experience. My daughters father is incarcerated for 10 yrs for the same thing. Now those killed in his accidents familys are mourning along with my daughter being without her father for ten years because of one night of stupidity. Im not saying any particular sentence is right or wrong. Im just saying that he has to live with the pain of knowing he killed to people, and his daughter is left without her father for a mistake HE made. So no amount of prison time is correct because all Parties involved are being punished nomatter how you look at it

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