LA substance counselor gets prison in DUI death
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A substance-abuse counselor who struck a pedestrian with her car and drove through a Los Angeles suburb with the dying man on her windshield was sentenced Thursday to 55 years to life in prison.
Sherri Lynn Wilkins, 53, was convicted by a jury earlier this year of second-degree murder, driving under the influence and hit-and-run.
Prosecutors said Wilkins’ blood-alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit when she struck 31-year-old Phillip Moreno in November 2012 as she was leaving a counseling center.
She drove 2 miles through the city of Torrance before other motorists were able to swarm her car at a traffic light and keep her there until police arrived.
Wilkins, who was a drug addict before she became a drug and alcohol counselor, contended she wasn’t drunk but had been drinking that night.
She claimed she was “self-medicating” while waiting for knee-replacement surgery and had consumed three single-serving bottles of vodka and a can of Budweiser beer and Clamato before starting to drive.
Wilkins testified during the trial that she never saw Moreno coming and it is was as if he fell out of the sky. The defense argued that Moreno was drunk and jumped on Wilkins’ car and that she panicked.
During her testimony Wilkins told the jury her drug addiction began when she was in a car accident at age 15 and suffered a broken back and shattered bones in her ankles and legs. She said she started using heroin when it became “cheaper than going to the doctor.”
Wilkins, who acknowledged having served time for residential burglaries over the years, said she kicked the heroin habit with the help of methadone and more recently had been using medical marijuana. She told of obtaining a degree in addiction counseling and going to work at a treatment center.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.