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Substance-abuse counselor accused in fatal DUI charged with murder

November 27, 2012 | 10:26 am

The substance-abuse counselor accused of killing a Torrance man while driving drunk was charged with murder Tuesday and faces life in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.

Sherri Wilkins, 51, was scheduled to be arraigned sometime Tuesday on felony charges of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI causing injury, drunken driving while causing injury and leaving the scene of an accident, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Wilkins has two prior burglary convictions and is a third-striker, prosecutors said. She is being held on $2.25 million bail.

Police said Wilkins hit Phillip Moreno, 31, as he tried to cross Torrance Boulevard on Saturday night and kept driving more than two miles with the man embedded in her windshield. Other motorists managed to stop her at 182nd Street and Crenshaw Boulevard and grab her keys, Torrance police Sgt. Robert Watt said.

Moreno had a pulse when officers arrived but was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Watt said Wilkins had a blood-alcohol level more than double the 0.08 legal limit.

Wilkins had a certification in drug and alcohol counseling and worked at a Torrance treatment center, where she led small-group classes six evenings a week. She wrote in an undated Myspace profile that she "used to be into drugs very heavy" and "with that came terrible choices," but that she had been sober for 11 years.

In 2010, Wilkins faced charges of driving under the influence, hit and run and being under the influence of a controlled substance after she allegedly hit a power pole at the intersection of 182nd Street and Hawthorne Boulevard — less than two miles from where Moreno was pulled from her windshield.

Wilkins dragged the pole into the road, where a few other cars struck it and were damaged, said Patrick Sullivan, assistant city attorney for Torrance.

That case, however, was eventually dismissed. Sullivan said Wilkins' blood-alcohol level came back at zero and the levels of drugs were "so low" an expert couldn't testify there was an impairment. Wilkins reached a civil compromise with the other drivers.


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— Kate Mather

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