Man gets six years in fatal Deptford drunken-driving crash

Posted: July 15, 2012

An Army recruiter who recently had returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan was sentenced Friday to six years in state prison for causing the death of a 29-year-old man in a drunken-driving crash in Deptford.

The victim was a designated driver who had volunteered to take two friends home on March 19, 2011, after they had been drinking at his place in Runnemede.

Rene Berben, 26, of Deptford, a recruiter at the Army's Woodbury office, had pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide after causing the two-vehicle crash on Route 41 when his Ford F250 steered into the oncoming lane around 1:30 a.m.

He admitted he had "10 or more" drinks at a Williamstown bar before he got behind the wheel, according to Bernie Weisenfeld, spokesman for the Gloucester County prosecutor. His blood-alcohol content was 0.342.

Steven Kennedy, an electrician from Runnemede, was driving his friends to Glassboro in a Nissan sedan when the car was struck. His passengers were treated for minor injuries, but he died at the scene.

"He was doing his two friends a favor, and for that he loses his life. . . . It wasn't even his car," said his father, Bill Kennedy, a retired postal worker. "I consider him a hero."

Kennedy was among more than 20 people - family members and about a dozen friends - who wore white T-shirts bearing his son's name to the sentencing in the Gloucester County courthouse. His son had just returned to work after being laid off for a year and "was on his way to doing well. . . . Things were looking good for him," Kennedy said. "I miss the kid every day. It's mind-numbing."

Superior Court Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson meted out the sentence, of which Berben must serve 85 percent before he can be paroled.

Upon Berben's release, his driver's license will be suspended for seven months.


Contact Jan Hefler at 856-779-3224 or jhefler@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @JanHefler. Read her blog at www.philly.com/BurlcoBuzz .

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