- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

LIGONIER, Pa. (AP) - A man charged with third-degree murder and other crimes for causing a wrong-way crash that killed a western Pennsylvania police lieutenant apologized in court, saying he deserves whatever punishment he gets.

Clair Fink III, 32, of Ligonier, was arrested and arraigned Thursday on charges that he was recklessly driving drunk on the wrong side of U.S. Route 30 before killing Ligonier Township Lt. Eric Eslary in the May 5 crash.

Fink told the district judge who arraigned him that he was wrong and “deserve what I get” - which could be a maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison if he is convicted of murder. He also is charged with vehicular homicide while driving drunk, which carries a mandatory three- to six-year sentence, drunken driving and several other crimes.

Police contend Fink drank seven to nine 16-ounce beers from an 18-pack he split with a co-worker after they clocked out of their job at a swimming pool installation business around 7 p.m. on May 4. Fink was driving a work van home more than 20 miles away, drinking and stopping at a strip club with his co-worker, before unwittingly driving east in the westbound lanes of the divided highway for about four miles and smashing head-on into Eslary’s patrol SUV at about 2 a.m.

Eslary’s widow, Mary Beth, 40, cried during the arraignment but told reporters afterward: “I’m ready to go home to my kids now. It’s been a good day and I want to go share it with them.” She and Eslary had six children between them in their blended family.

Fink also cried after the arraignment.

“There’s nothing that words could describe what I feel or that I could do to change it. But I mean I am sorry and I wish I could go back and change time,” he told reporters.

Fink remained jailed without bond Friday.

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