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Driver admits guilt in fatal crash

An Amherst man pleaded guilty Tuesday to attempted vehicular manslaughter and vehicular assault for fatally injuring a woman as she was being dropped off in front of her North Buffalo home.

Robert Hughes, 26, of Jeffrey Drive, pleaded guilty in the death of Mary Raines, 49, and the severe injuries Dennis Berwalt, 58, suffered March 8 on Delaware Avenue just south of Tacoma Avenue.

State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns refused to give Hughes a sentencing commitment but said whatever term he imposes would have to be served consecutively to a lengthy federal prison term that Hughes is likely to receive on drug-related charges.

After a night of drinking, Hughes was speeding north on Delaware -- traveling at about 50 mph in a 30-mph zone -- at about 3:15 a.m. when he smashed into Berwalt's car as Raines was being dropped off, according to Lynette M. Reda, chief of the Erie County district attorney's Vehicular Crimes Bureau.

Raines' daughter, Denise, agreed to the plea deal because of the lengthy federal prison term Hughes faces. He was on federal probation for a 2001 drug case at the time of the crash, Reda said.

Reda said Hughes violated his probation by getting drunk; he had a blood-alcohol reading of 0.17 percent, more than twice the legal limit, at the time of the crash. Raines was pronounced dead at the scene, and Berwalt was hospitalized for weeks, the prosecutor said.

Both victims worked at Adam's Mark Hotel.

Hughes has been in custody since his arrest at the scene of the fatal crash, Reda added.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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