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Pittsfield man avoids jail in wife death case

James Benlien received a two-year suspended jail sentence and two years of probation Wednesday.

The 46-year-old Benlien had faced a charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident in connection with the November 2011 death of his wife, Christine. But a grand jury declined to indict him on that charge.

Prosecutors say the couple was arguing in the early morning hours as they drove home from a bar with their adult daughter. Christine Benlien stepped out of the vehicle, fell and hit her head. Her husband drove on. She was pronounced dead at a hospital.

James Benlien’s lawyer says his client didn’t know his wife was hurt.

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