Substance Abuse Counselor Faces DUI, Manslaughter Charges in Hit-and-Run

"We just want her to be brought to justice," the victim's family said outside Sherri Wilkins' court appearance

By Toni Guinyard and Jonathan Lloyd
|  Wednesday, Nov 28, 2012  |  Updated 6:26 AM PDT
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The woman accused of killing a Torrance pedestrian and driving with him on her windshield for two miles made her first court appearance on Tuesday. She is charged with murder, manslaughter and other serious crimes. Ted Chen reports from Torrance for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on November 27, 2012.

Ted Chen

The woman accused of killing a Torrance pedestrian and driving with him on her windshield for two miles made her first court appearance on Tuesday. She is charged with murder, manslaughter and other serious crimes. Ted Chen reports from Torrance for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on November 27, 2012.

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Family members of a man killed in a hit-and-run crash described witnesses as "angels" who tried to help the victim by stopping the driver after his body was lodged in the vehicle's windshield.

Sherri Wilkins, a 51-year-old substance abuse counselor from Torrance, was in court Tuesday to face DUI and manslaughter charges in the death of Phillip Moreno. Arraignment was postponed to Dec. 18.

Wilkins allegedly hit the pedestrian and drove with him lodged in her windshield before witnesses forced her to stop, according to investigators. The crash happened at 11:23 p.m. Saturday near the corner of Torrance Boulevard and Madrid Avenue, where flowers and other items were placed at a memorial.

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Witnesses persuaded her to stop near Crenshaw Boulevard and 182nd Street, police said. Moreno was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Moreno family members -- his four brothers and two sisters were in court Tuesday.-- told NBC4 that one of the people who stopped the driver reached into the vehicle and removed the keys from the ignition. They referred to the witnesses as "angels."

"We just want her to be brought to justice," Moreno's brother told NBC4. "I don't want her to see the light of day. She's supposed to be setting an example out there preaching against drugs and alcohol and she's drinking herself."

Wilkins was charged in 2010 with DUI and leaving the scene of a crash that caused damage to either property or a vehicle, according to according to Los Angeles Superior Court records online. The charges were dismissed in 2011, records show.

She has two prior convictions for burglary, according to court records.

David Lisonbee, CEO of Twin Town Treatment Center where Wilkins works, said she cleared a background check and received positive reviews from patients.

"This is the No. 1 message we should take from the tragedy -- no one who is recovery from addiction is immune from relapse," Lisonbee said.

Bail was initially set at $275,000, but increased Tuesday to $2 million.

The family established the Phillip Moreno Memorial Fund. A vigil is planned for Tuesday evening.

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