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Woman who drove 2 miles with body on hood found guilty of murder

By Linda Deutsch

AP Special Correspondent

LAST UPDATED: 07:01 p.m. HST, Feb 04, 2014

LOS ANGELES » A substance-abuse counselor who drove 2 miles through a Los Angeles suburb with a dying man on her windshield was convicted today of second-degree murder, drunken driving and hit-and-run.

Sherri Lynn Wilkins showed no response as the Superior Court jury returned with its verdict.

Wilkins' blood-alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit for driving when she struck 31-year-old Phillip Moreno in November 2012 in suburban Torrance, prosecutors said.

"The way she treated Phillip Moreno struck at human dignity," Deputy District Attorney John Harlan, the lead prosecutor, said after the verdict. "This case has been about human dignity. We do not tolerate someone who does not pull over when they see someone on their windshield."

A large contingent of Moreno's relatives, including brothers and sisters, were present for the verdict. Outside court, they embraced Harlan and co-prosecutor Saman Ahmadpour but declined to speak to reporters.

Wilkins, 52, who was an addict before she became a drug and alcohol counselor, said she had been drinking that night but wasn't drunk. She said she had been "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.

Her lawyer, Nan Whitfield, was unreachable for comment. She had argued that Moreno was drunk and jumped on Wilkins' car and that she panicked.

Wilkins testified that she never saw him coming and it is was as if he fell out of the sky.

Harlan said during the trial that the force of the crash punched a hole in the passenger side of Wilkins' window, and Moreno lost his shoes and pants, but still she didn't stop to render aid or call 911.

It wasn't until passing motorists noticed the bizarre scene that they were able to swarm Wilkins' car at a traffic light and keep her there until police arrived.

Wilkins faces a maximum sentence of 45 years to life. Jurors found to be true the allegation that she has a record of two previous serious felonies, making her subject to the California three-strikes law.

Superior Court Judge Henry Hall set Wilkins' sentencing for March 26.

She testified during the trial, telling jurors the story of her addiction, which began when she was in a car accident at the age of 15 and suffered a broken back and shattered bones in her ankles and legs. Wilkins 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.

Wilkins was leaving the center on the night of the crash.

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entrkn wrote:
Good riddance of a roadway menace...!
on February 4,2014 | 06:51PM
joseph007 wrote:
Lucky she's not in Hawaii. Sentence here is probation.
on February 5,2014 | 08:02AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
For Murder 2? Even in Hawaii that means mandatory life with parole and the Hawaii Parole Authority has been setting 20 year minimums for Murder 2.
on February 5,2014 | 11:10AM
SueH wrote:
A substance abuse counselor?? Well, she certainly comes with experience!
on February 4,2014 | 06:54PM
Grimbold wrote:
At least they should test substance counselors for drugs regularly.
on February 5,2014 | 07:37AM
nssanes wrote:
Does anyone reading this know additional facts? I can understand how a pedestrian could be struck and land up against a windshield, but how could the body "lose" pants and shoes?
on February 4,2014 | 07:22PM
Skyler wrote:
People can get knocked out of their shoes- have seen that first hand (dear old lady on the Pali - RIP) Pants? Not sure how, unless of course if the person is wearing the kine that already teeter on the edge of their behind.
on February 4,2014 | 10:06PM
nitpikker wrote:
sad commentary on the treatment center that employs a drunk substance-abuse counselor. like the fox guarding the henhouse?
on February 5,2014 | 01:10AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
This woman is into total denial, even when sober. Even if the victim fell outa the sky, you STILL have to stop and render aid.
on February 5,2014 | 04:10AM
lokela wrote:
No brainer here. Lock um up.
on February 5,2014 | 04:45AM
Morimoto wrote:
Good for her, may she rot in prison until the day she dies.
on February 5,2014 | 07:27AM
joseph007 wrote:
Unlucky she's not in Hawaii. Sentence here is probation.
on February 5,2014 | 08:02AM
Unlucky for her, but lucky for you. You'd look pretty funny strolling down the street attached to her windshield with your willy floppin about.
on February 5,2014 | 08:21AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
joseph, you have an unusual spin on the matter.
on February 6,2014 | 05:03AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
So she works at a treatment center, was leaving the center at the time of the crash, and her blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit. That must be some treatment center when the workers are boozing it up on the way home if not at the center itself.
on February 5,2014 | 11:09AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
Hawaii, we don't know if she boozed it up in the parking lot, before she drove home.
on February 6,2014 | 05:06AM
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