LOS ANGELES (AP) — A substance-abuse counselor who drove 2 miles through a Los Angeles suburb with a dying man on her windshield was convicted Tuesday of second-degree murder, drunken driving and hit-and-run charges.
Sherry Lynn Wilkins showed no response as the Superior Court jury returned with its verdict.
Wilkins’ blood-alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit for driving when she struck 31-year-old Phillip Moreno in November 2012 in suburban Torrance, prosecutors said.
“The way she treated Phillip Moreno struck at human dignity,” Deputy District Attorney John Harlan, the lead prosecutor, said after the verdict. “This case has been about human dignity. We do not tolerate someone who does not pull over when they see someone on their windshield.”
Wilkins, 52, who was an addict before she became a drug and alcohol counselor, said she had been drinking that night but wasn’t drunk. She said she had been “self-medicating” while waiting for knee-replacement surgery and had consumed three airplane-size bottles of vodka and a can of Budweiser beer and Clamato before starting to drive.
Harlan said during the trial that the force of the crash punched a hole in the passenger side of Wilkins’ window and Moreno lost his shoes and pants, but still she didn’t stop to render aid or call 911.
It wasn’t until passing motorists noticed the bizarre scene that they were able to swarm Wilkins’ car at a traffic light and keep her there until police arrived.
Wilkins faces a maximum sentence of 45 years to life.
She testified during the trial, telling jurors the story of her addiction, which began when she was in a car accident at the age of 15 and suffered a broken back and shattered bones in her ankles and legs. Wilkins said she started using heroin when it became “cheaper than going to the doctor.”
Wilkins, who acknowledged having served time for residential burglaries over the years, said she kicked the heroin habit with the help of methadone and more recently had been using medical marijuana. She told of obtaining a degree in addiction counseling and going to work at a treatment center.
Wilkins was leaving the center on the night of the crash.