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Fayette veteran gets up to 6 years in fatal DUI crash

| Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

A Fayette County war veteran on Thursday was sentenced to three to six years in state prison for a fatal drunken-driving accident in 2012 that killed a father of two.

Gary Lee Brackenbury Jr., 34, apologized to the victim's family before he was sentenced by President Judge John F. Wagner Jr.

The victim's family said they are grieving a loss that is senseless.

“I'm tore up over this,” Brackenbury said. “This has affected me worse in the head than any sentence.”

Redstone police said Brackenbury was speeding while impaired along Route 40 on Aug. 1, 2012, when his pickup crashed into a car driven by Anthony Balosky, 35, of Republic.

Balosky died at the scene of blunt-force trauma, according to an autopsy report.

Balosky's sister, Joyce Ruffcorn, said in a victim-impact statement that her brother's death has devastated their family, especially Balosky's two sons.

“It's not fair Anthony's sons have to go through the rest of their lives without their dad,” she said. “The crime you committed was so senseless.”

Ruffcorn said her brother was on his way back to work when Brackenbury killed him.

“You took something from all of us that we will never get back,” Ruffcorn said. “It has been so hard dealing with this death that didn't have to happen.”

Brackenbury served in Iraq, according to his attorney, Michael Sherman of Pittsburgh. Sherman said Brackenbury has since sought help through the county Veterans Affairs department.

Wagner said Brackenbury is to be commended for his service to his country, but he noted that any post-traumatic stress issues are no excuse for his decision to drink and drive.

Wagner pointed out that at the end of three years, Brackenbury likely will leave prison to return to his mother, who is disabled and relies on her son for assistance, according to Sherman.

Balosky will never return to his family, Wagner said.

“There's no turning the clock back,” Wagner said. “There's no way to restore what your actions have done to that family.”

The sentence was in accordance with a plea bargain in which Brackenbury pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence and related charges.

Brackenbury's sentencing was delayed for approximately an hour when Ruffcorn indicated during her victim-impact statement that the family was not in agreement with the proposed prison sentence.

After consulting with Assistant District Attorney Anthony Iannamorelli outside the courtroom, they advised the judge they are satisfied with the sentence. They declined additional comment.

“This does offer the family some sense of closure,” Iannamorelli said. “It's a guaranteed sentence to be served in a state correctional institution.”

In addition to the prison term, Wagner sentenced Balosky to six months' probation in an unrelated DUI that occurred a year prior to the deadly crash.

In that case, Redstone police said Brackenbury and another man drove their vehicles through several fields at Patsy Hillman Park on Aug. 14, 2011, intentionally colliding and extensively damaging both vehicles.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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