A substance abuse counselor convicted of second-degree murder, DUI and other charges after driving for two miles with a dying man embedded in her windshield in 2012 was sentenced to 55 years to life in prison in a Los Angeles courtroom on Thursday.
Sherri Wilkins, 53, was driving on Torrance Boulevard near Madrid Avenue in Torrance on Nov. 24, 2012 when she struck 31-year-old Phillip Moreno. Instead of stopping, Wilkins continued to drive through Torrance with Moreno stuck in her windshield until witnesses surrounded the car, forced her to stop and detained her until police arrived.
Moreno was taken to a hospital, where he later died.
During sentencing on Thursday, a tearful Wilkins apologized to the family.
“This accident was a tragedy and I’m sorry for making you go through this,” she said.
But Moreno’s family rejected that apology, confronting Wilkins and accusing her of showing no remorse for her actions.
“If you were truly sorry for my brother Phillip, you would have stopped that night, called 911, and gave my brother the help he needed and deserved,” Moreno’s brother said. “Had you done that, there would have been a great chance my brother Phillip would be alive today.”
His niece, Melissa Raina also spoke out.
“You have shown no remorse. Not once have you owned what you have done,” she told Wilkins. “In fact, you have sat in that pathetic little chair, trying to play the victim.”
L.A. Superior Court Judge Henry Hall said there might have been a different outcome if she had stopped and taken responsibility.
He also noted that Wilkins had been by herself when she was drinking.
“This was not a situation where she went to a bar or a party or some other social setting and had too much to drink and gotten in her car and drove home,” Hall told the court. “She intentionally got drunk on her own, knowing that in doing so she was putting the lives of other people at risk.”
Wilkins was given the maximum sentence of 45 years for second-degree murder. However, because she had two prior burglary convictions, Hall sentenced her to an additional 10 years.
In February, a jury found Wilkins guilty of second-degree murder, DUI causing injury, driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher and leaving the scene of an accident.
At the time of her conviction, Deputy District Attorney John Harlan called the case a “complete tragedy.”
“The defendant should have pulled over,” he said at the time. “Our society does not put up with people that don’t pull over after they’ve struck someone and that person is bleeding to death on their windshield.”
KTLA’s Anthony Kurzweil, Courtney Friel and Tracy Bloom contributed to this report.