Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pedestrian Killed in DUI Hit-And-Run by Substance Abuse Counselor

Posted on Behalf of Attorney Ross Goodman for Criminal Defense

A man who opted to walk instead of drive home because he had three beers was hit and killed by a drunk driving alcohol and drug addiction counselor Saturday night in Torrance, California.

The 31-year-old Philip Moreno who spent his last day alive having beer and watching a college football game with friends at a bar called The Branch Office was struck head on by a Mitsubishi Eclipse convertible as he was crossing Torrance Boulevard. He was hit so hard he got knocked off his shoes and got lodged in the windshield of the car. He was carried writhing atop the hood and stuck in the windshield for two miles before other motorists managed to swarm the drunk driver at a traffic light at Crenshaw Boulevard and 182nd Street and snatch the car keys away from 51-year-old Sherri Lynn Wilkins. When responding rescue workers arrived and pulled Moreno off the windshield, he still had a pulse. However, he died on arrival at the hospital.

Wilkins who was found with a blood-alcohol level more than double the 0.08 legal limit was arrested and charged with one felony count each of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI causing injury, driving with a .08 percent or higher blood alcohol causing injury, and leaving the scene of an accident. Her arraignment was postponed for next month after a brief court hearing Tuesday. She was ordered held on a $2.25 million bail. Wilkins has two prior burglary convictions and is already a DUI third striker. If convicted as charged, she faces up to life in prison.

When police apprehended Wilkins, she told them that she did not stop because she panicked. She has a previous DUI hit-and-run arrest, but charges were not pursued because tests found she was not under the influence of any substance. In 2010, she faced charges of driving while intoxicated, hit and run and being under the influence of a controlled substance after she hit a power pole at the intersection of 182nd Street and Hawthorne Boulevard which she dragged into the road, where it struck and damaged other cars. The case was however eventually dismissed as test results for her blood-alcohol level came back at zero and the levels of drugs were "so low" that no expert would testify that there was an impairment. Wilkins though reached a civil compromise with the other drivers whose cars she damaged.

Wilkins who had a certification in drug and alcohol counseling from the Loyola Marymount University worked at a Torrance Twin Town treatment center where she led small group classes of recovering addicts six evenings a week. On her Myspace profile, she wrote that she had been drug-free for 11 years, was a Buddhist and was planning trips to Chicago to see her daughter, a medical intern, and to Hawaii.