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Ex-substance abuse counselor gets prison for DUI death

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Former substance abuse counselor gets 55 years to life for fatally hitting pedestrian while drunk driving

A former substance-abuse counselor was sentenced Thursday to 55 years to life in prison for fatally striking a pedestrian who was lodged in the windshield as she drove drunk for two more miles before finally being stopped.

In April, Sherri Lynn Wilkins, 53, was found guilty of murder, driving under the influence and other charges after the 2012 incident in which she struck 31-year-old Phillip Moreno as he crossed a street in Torrance.

Wilkins proceeded to drive more than two miles with him on her windshield before other motorists were able to stop her at an intersection.

Although Moreno was still alive when police arrived, he was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

"Had she stopped, Mr. Moreno might have had some chance of survival. That didn't happen," said Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Henry J. Hall during her sentencing hearing.

Nearly 20 friends and family members of Moreno attended the sentencing, and a few addressed Wilkins.

"We'll never know if he could have lived, thanks to you," said friend Victor Gasset during the hearing.

After they directed comments to her, Wilkins became emotional and responded. 

"I just want to say that this accident was a tragedy and I'm sorry for the pain you're going through," she said.

Wilkins had a blood-alcohol content almost double the legal limit when she hit Moreno, prosecutors said. She was leaving the counseling center where she worked.

Wilkins had long struggled with addiction herself before being hired.

For breaking news in Los Angeles and the Southland, follow @Caitlin__Owens.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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