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Woman accused in fatal DUI crash is substance-abuse counselor

This post has been corrected. Please see note below.

The woman accused of fatally hitting a pedestrian and carrying him on her windshield more than two miles worked at a Torrance recovery center as a substance-abuse counselor, the facility's president said.

David Lisonbee, president of Twin Town Treatment Centers, said 51-year-old Sherri Wilkins was hired at the Torrance facility in September 2011 after an internship. Wilkins is a chemical dependency counselor who worked with a small group that meets each evening for six days a week, Lisonbee said.

She was also recovering from addiction herself, Lisonbee said, but passed a background check and drug and alcohol screening when she was hired and showed no signs of relapse.

"There was absolutely nothing that gave us an indication that she was in a danger zone," he said. "We feel just absolutely appalled and horrified that this happened to both families. It's a horrible tragedy."

Torrance police say Wilkins struck Phillip Moreno, 31, as he was crossing the street at Torrance Boulevard and Madrid Avenue on Saturday night. Wilkins told officers she "panicked" and kept driving, said Sgt. Robert Watt, for 2.3 miles as Moreno was "partially embedded" in her windshield.

Other motorists managed to stop Wilkins at 182nd Street and Crenshaw Boulevard and got ahold of her keys, Watt said. Moreno still had a pulse when officers arrived, Watt added, but was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Wilkins had a blood alcohol content that was more than double the legal limit, Watt said. She was jailed on suspicion of of driving under the influence and manslaughter, though Watt said additional charges were possible at her arraignment Tuesday.

Wilkins told officers she was on her way home from work at the time of the crash, but Lisonbee said the facility only had daytime meetings on Saturdays and was closed.

Watt, who has been with the Torrance Police Department for 18 years, called the incident "mind-boggling."

"I've never seen this," he said. "It shows you how impaired she must have been."

In an undated profile on her Myspace page, "Sherri Lynn" wrote that she "used to be into drugs very heavy, with that came terrible choices, the loss of all my family and freedom."

The profile went on to say she was 11 years sober and had a degree in drug and alcohol counseling, loved dogs, painting, cooking and the mountains.

Under "Smoke / Drink," the profile read: "No / No."

[Updated Nov. 26 at 3:55 p.m.: An earlier version of this post stated that Wilkins obtained her internship through Loyala Marymount University. Wilkins was a student in an alcohol and drug counseling certification program through the university's extension division between fall 2008 and summer 2011, a university spokeswoman said. State records indicated she earned her certification in alcohol and drug counseling, and the certification was valid through February 2014.]


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-- Kate Mather

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