A California drug addiction counselor was found guilty of second-degree murder and drunk driving yesterday. The woman, 52-year-old Sherri Wilkins, hit a pedestrian and drove with him lodged in her windshield for over two miles before a group of witnesses forced her to stop driving.
Wilkins blood alcohol content was double the legal limit when she struck and killed Phillip Moreno in November of 2012. She told the jury presiding over her case that she was “self-medicating” with alcohol on the night she decided to drink and drive. She admitted to drinking vodka, beer, and a tomato juice cocktail before getting behind the wheel of her car.
Moreno was walking home from his local bar when Wilkins struck him. The impact did not immediately kill him, but he died in the following moments as he remained stuck in Wilkins’ windshield.
“The way she treated Phillip Moreno struck at human dignity,” Deputy District Attorney John Harlan said after the verdict was announced. “This case has been about human dignity. We do not tolerate someone who does not pull over when they see someone on their windshield.”
The jury deliberated for three days before sentencing Wilkins to a minimum of 45 years in prison. The lengthy sentence is due to California’s three strike policy. The second-degree murder charge is her third felony conviction. Prior to cleaning her life up, Wilkins was a heroin addict for years. During her years as an addict, she was twice found guilty on felony burglary charges.
The case, as one of Wilkins’ neighbors notes, is heartbreaking for both sides. Not only was an innocent Moreno killed, but Wilkins’ actions show that a dark past she thought she’d once left behind caught up with her. After decades of heroin addiction, Wilkins got clean, returned to school, and earned a degree in drug addiction counseling. Many of the people she counseled credit her with turning their lives around.
"We've gotten some calls from people saying, 'She really saved my life,'" said Tami Jimenez, a co-worker of Wilkins. "Everybody loved Sherri, the employees, the patients, just everybody loved her."