Driver accused of causing deadly crash held without bail

SE Mass

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — The person charged with running through a stop sign and causing a deadly crash last week is behind bars while awaiting trial for manslaughter and other charges.

James Bennett-Werra, 21, pleaded not guilty to a list of charges including manslaughter, motor vehicle homicide, leaving the scene of an accident and failing to stop for police.

State Police said in court documents that Bennett-Werra was fleeing from a Fairhaven detective in an unmarked Jeep last Wednesday when she ran a stop sign on Tallman Street, crashing into a Toyota Corolla in the intersection.

The driver of the Corolla, 68-year-old Janet Murphy-Hebert, died in the crash. Her son Kyle Murphy, 38, is recovering from serious injuries at the hospital.

Police said Bennett-Werra had cut off her parole bracelet two days prior to the crash. She had recently served two prison stints for an assault case and a separate botched bank robbery case. She had both parole and probation violation warrants out for her arrest at the time of the crash.

Bennett-Werra’s defense attorney, Kevin Reddington, did not object to her being held without bail and requested that she be housed at the transgender unit of the Dedham House of Correction because she identifies as a woman.

According to a State Police affidavit, Bennett-Werra was driving a Chevy Malibu in Fairhaven that was rented in a friend’s name. Her passenger told police the two noticed an unmarked Jeep was driving behind them, which put on blue lights and then a siren.

The passenger told police Bennett-Werra said she did not want to pull over because she had an outstanding warrant and had cut her parole bracelet off.

The pursuit continued into New Bedford, where police said Bennett-Werra is seen on surveillance video running through stop signs, with the Fairhaven detective about six car lengths behind.

At one point, a New Bedford police officer doing a paid detail said he was nearly hit by the Chevy. He then saw the Jeep chasing the car, and called in the pursuit to the New Bedford police radio.

Minutes later, surveillance video from a mini-mart shows the Chevy driving through the stop sign on Tallman Street at Ashley Boulevard. The crash happened one second later in the intersection.

Fairhaven Police declined to comment on the circumstances of the chase, but said there would be an internal review. 

“I’m not putting any blame on the police here,” Reddington told reporters after Bennett-Werra’s arraignment. “The case is just an overwhelming tragedy all around, for a lot of people.” 

He declined to comment on the specifics of the allegations until he is able to review the prosecution’s discovery.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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