California woman sentenced to 55 years to life in DUI death

Posted Jun 14, 2014 by Arthur Weinreb
A substance abuse counsellor was sentenced under California's three-strikes law after she was found guilty of driving drunk, hitting a pedestrian, and then continuing to drive while the dying man was trapped in her windshield.
Sherri Lynn Wilkins  53  at her sentencing hearing for the drunk driving death of Phillip Moreno  31
Sherri Lynn Wilkins, 53, at her sentencing hearing for the drunk driving death of Phillip Moreno, 31
Screen capture from KCAL
Sherri Lynn Wilkins, 53, appeared in a California court on Thursday for sentencing. The former substance abuse counsellor was convicted of second-degree murder, DUI, and leaving the scene of an accident by a jury in February in the 2012 death of Phillip Moreno, 31.
The accident occurred on Nov. 24, 2012 in Torrance, CA. At 11:23 p.m., Wilkins struck Moreno, a pedestrian who was crossing the street, and the 31-year-old ended up being lodged in the windshield of Wilkins' vehicle. The woman continued to drive for about two miles before other drivers were able to stop her by surrounding her car and boxing it in. One of those people reached in and removed her keys from the ignition. She was then held by the bystanders until police could arrive. The alcohol in her body was nearly twice the legal limit.
During the time she kept on driving, Moreno was still alive. He died later in hospital.
During her trial, Wilkins testified she had some drinks to self-medicate the pain she suffered in her knee but was not drunk. She further said she never saw Moreno coming. The defense argued Moreno jumped on Wilkins' hood and she panicked.
Prior to becoming a counsellor, Wilkins herself had substance abuse problems and was a heroin addict. According to her, she began self-medicate after breaking her back when she was 15.
During the sentencing, Wilkins cried and apologized to Moreno's family. The family was not impressed. Moreno's niece, Melissa Ramo, said, "You will not get no sympathy from me, nor any forgiveness. The last time I checked, we are all here because you are a murderer. How does that feel?"
In sentencing the defendant, Judge Henry Hall said, "Ms. Wilkins demonstrated an extraordinary callousness in fleeing the scene and trying to shake Mr. Moreno's body off her car. This is a callous murder, not an unfortunate act."
According to court records, Wilkins was charged in 2010 with leaving the scene of an accident but those charges were dismissed the following year.
Wilkins does have two previous convictions for burglary and a conviction for attempting to smuggle drugs into prison. These convictions put her under California's "three-strikes" law which provides for a sentence triple that which would normally be imposed.
Had Wilkins stopped and called for help at the scene of the accident, it is believed Moreno may have lived.