A middle-aged trucker has been sentenced to life in prison plus an additional 15-year jail sentence for charges stemming from a fatal crash in 2011 that took the lives of two women.
Jennifer Jenkins, 35, and Kathleen O’Callaghan, 34, were driving to a friend’s party with Jenkins’ husband and 2-month-old daughter following in a separate car behind them. In the sentencing hearing, Dan Jenkins described watching a truck cross a double yellow line and slam head-first into the car containing his wife and friend.
Other witnesses described how Michael John Phillips, the 52-year-old trucker, had been driving erratically before the crash. They claimed that he was speeding up and slowing down for no apparent reason, swerving along the small country road.
According to the Naples Daily News, his defense attorneys claimed in court that Phillips had fallen asleep at the wheel at the time of the crash, and that “he does not have a conscious recollection of the accident.”
Florida sentencing is determined in part by a points system. In order to be eligible for a life sentence, a defendant’s “score” must be 363 or higher. Phillips’ score was 364.4, just barely eligible.
But for the judge, testing positive for methamphetamines was enough to throw the book at Phillips. Not only did he give Phillips a life-sentence, but also added on a 15-year sentence on top for DUI manslaughter.
“Mr. Phillips, by his decisions, weaponized a commercial vehicle,” said the judge.
Phillips’ defense attorney says he plans to file an appeal of the decision, but for the families of the deceased women, they’re seeing this as a win.
“Now I can tell her the man is in jail for the rest of his life,” Dan Jenkins said of his now-6-year-old daughter. “I can look at her and say that man will never hurt anybody again.”