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Judge won't release driver accused of DUI in fatal crash

Lori Phillips, the repeat driving-under-the-influence offender accused of killing a man and critically injuring his fiancee in a Seward Highway wreck in November, will remain jailed despite her mother's and brother's offer to stand as third-party custodians, a judge ruled at a bail hearing Wednesday.

Phillips is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree assault, driving under the influence, reckless driving and driving on a revoked license in connection with the Nov. 5 head-on collision at Potter Marsh that killed Louis Clement, 23, and put his child's mother, 29-year-old Joyua Stovall, in the hospital, where she remains.

Members of all involved families appeared in court Wednesday to plead their cases, including Stovall, who delivered remarks to state Superior Court Judge Philip Volland over the telephone from her hospital bed.

Stovall, offering her first public remarks since the wreck, said at the hearing it would be unsafe and "ridiculous" to let Phillips out, where she could get behind the wheel again.

"The damage that was done -- what I have to go through, and not being able to walk or see my children, or be able to go home and be a mother to them," Stovall said. "She is a hazard. She killed my child's father in the accident. Who's to say she's not going to slip up and do it again?"

Phillips remains jailed at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center with bail set at $110,000 and a third-party requirement. If she were released, any third party would be required to keep eyes or ears on Phillips at all times, something her mother, Elizabeth Jenkins, 79, and her brother, Robert L. Phillips, both of Fairbanks, said at the hearing they could do.

Assistant District Attorney Regan Williams opposed approval of the custodians, noting that in Phillips' two most recent DUIs, witnesses tried to physically stop her from driving and were unable to.

"The problem isn't reporting, the problem is stopping her," Williams said, adding that letting her out would be "tempting fate."

Phillips was out on bail on a DUI charge from earlier this year at the time of the fatal crash and already was convicted of a DUI charge in a 2005 case. In both instances, prosecutors say, she was blacked out drunk and unaware of her surroundings when police arrived to arrest her.

Court records indicate she was arrested on a DUI charge in Juneau in 1983 but pleaded that case down to a traffic offense. City prosecutors have also said she was convicted on a DUI charge in Washington state in 1986.

But an attorney representing Phillips, John Cashion, told Volland that Phillips has only one prior DUI conviction and said the proposed custodians were fully capable of reporting her if she violates her conditions of release.

"Every defendant deserves reasonable bail," Cashion said, noting that Phillips was not seeking to have the amount of her bail requirement reduced.

Volland, in his decision, agreed with that premise but said Phillips' history of arrests on DUI charges demonstrated that she was a threat not easily stopped because of her alcohol abuse.

A fatal crash happening while Phillips is out on bail on a DUI charge is "a judge's nightmare," Volland said.

Phillips' family members told the court during the hearing they weren't aware of Phillips' drinking, and that, too, is a problem, the judge said. It would be too easy for her to slip out of a home, into a car and find some alcohol, he said.

"What's being proposed now is simply not enough to give me that assurance" that she won't drink and drive, the judge said.

Phillips' trial is set for May 17.

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