Jury convicts woman of murder in repeat DUI case

Posted: Thursday, November 18, 2010

ANCHORAGE - A repeat drunken driver who consumed more than a dozen drinks before her SUV collided with a small sedan and killed a motorist was convicted Wednesday of second-degree murder.

Lori Phillips, 46, of Anchorage, faced the murder charge, as well as counts of assault, driving under the influence, driving with a revoked license and reckless driving. She was found guilty on all charges.

Phillips, who has been arrested five times for drunken driving and convicted three times, showed no emotion as the judge read the verdicts. She will be sentenced March 4.

Her attorney planned to appeal.

Phillips may have had as many as 18 drinks before she got behind the wheel of her large sport utility vehicle after an afternoon hair appointment, prosecutors said. She drove about 10 miles on some of Anchorage's busiest roads during rush hour before going the wrong direction on Seward Highway.

Phillips' SUV didn't swerve or brake as it slammed head-on into a small sedan, prosecutors said. Louis Clement, 23, was killed instantly, and his fiancee, Joyua Stovall, was seriously injured.

In finding Phillips guilty of second-degree murder, the jury agreed that Phillips showed an extreme indifference to human life when she got drunk and decided to drive.

Stovall's brother, Jamin, said Alaska needs to toughen its laws on drinking and driving so that people will realize there could be serious consequences if they do.

"We are all adults, and we know better than to drink and drive," Stovall said.

He doubted, however, that people like Lori Phillips can be stopped. "There are just some people out there. Can you stop them? You wish you could," he said.

Prosecutors said Phillips' longtime hairdresser believed she was intoxicated, but didn't smell alcohol, and that Phillips fell asleep while getting her hair done. Her hairdresser pleaded with her not to drive and tried to grab her keys, then offered to find her a ride, they said, but she refused.

Several drivers swerved to avoid a collision with her as she drove the wrong way, including Clement, but he couldn't avoid Phillips' oncoming SUV.

The sedan ended up in a ditch with its front end destroyed. The engine and drive train was pushed several feet inside the passenger compartment.

Nancy Bidwell, the mother of 17-year-old who was killed by a drunk driver in 1983, attended the hearing with her husband. "This finally sends a message that we are sick and tired of it," she said of the verdicts.

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