SALEM, Mass. — A Superior Court judge described a local man involved in a “tragic” 2016 crash that critically injured a Lawrence High School track star as “profoundly mentally ill.”
During the past five years, Deybet Blanco’s mentally competency to stand trial wavered and he remained held without bail.
But on Monday, Judge Thomas Dreschler, pointing to both his lack of criminal record and history of mental illness, said he would sentence Blanco to 7½ to 8½ years in state prison should he plead guilty.
Blanco’s prison sentence would be followed by five years of probation with a series of conditions, including he would be barred from operating a car, truck, boat or other machinery and must continue mental health treatment.
Among the charges Blanco faces is assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, causing serious bodily injury.
“In terms of serious bodily injury this is about as serious as it gets,” said Dreschler, of Julio Berroa, a former LHS track star who was age 19 at the time of the crash.
Berroa, now 24, was left with extensive long-term injuries, including a brain injury, and has undergone 10 surgeries in the past five years, according to family members.
According to police, Blanco was on a suicide mission on March 2, 2016, when he drove his pickup truck head-on into a Honda sedan on Howard Street in Lawrence, injuring Berroa and the driver, Oscaris Pimental, Berroa’s girlfriend.
Pimental, now 24, was also injured but not as severely as Berroa.
The crash occurred down the street from the Engine 6 firehouse. A veteran firefighter described the incident as one of the worst things he’d seen in his career.
Firefighters used two sets of the Jaws of Life extrication tools to free the teens from the mangled wreckage.
Immediately after the crash, Blanco told first responders he was possessed by the devil.
“Nobody deserved what we went through,” said Pimental on Monday afternoon, during a lobby conference in before Dreschler. She noted she and Berroa had their whole lives ahead of them when the crash occurred.
Lobby conferences are held to discuss resolutions to cases.
Blanco was not formally sentenced on Monday. The next date in the case is scheduled for Dec. 2. During that time it’s expected Blanco with discuss with his defense attorney, Amy Smith, whether he will plead guilty, or go to trial.
Either way, Dreschler said he hopes the case is concluded by year’s end.
Prosecutor James Gubitose asked for Blanco to be sentenced to eight to 15 years in state prison, followed by five years of probation.
The maximum penalty for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury is 15 years in state prison. Blanco was charged with two counts and negligent operation of a motor vehicle.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.