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Driver accused in fatal crash goes before judge

Lori Phillips appeared in court Wednesday to face a judge for the first time on allegations that she killed one man and critically injured his passenger while driving drunk on the Seward Highway last week.

Police say Phillips, 55, had an estimated blood-alcohol level of .35 when her Ford SUV crossed the center line at Potter Marsh as she was on her way home from a hair appointment and collided head-on with an oncoming Toyota sedan.

Driver Louis James Clement, 23, died at the scene and his passenger, Joyua Stovall, 29, was critically injured in the Nov. 5 wreck.

Police said Phillips' eyes were bloodshot and her speech was slurred after the crash, and that she suffered a broken arm and a lacerated liver. At the hospital, Phillips told police she didn't remember driving or the crash, but she admitted drinking beer, according to a police affidavit filed in court.

Phillips has been charged with second-degree murder, first-degree assault, driving under the influence and driving on a revoked license. At the hearing Wednesday, a judge appointed Phillips an attorney and held her bail at $100,000. Phillips remains in custody at the Anchorage jail.

Phillips has a history of alcohol problems, according to prosecutors, and has been charged with five DUIs in the past 26 years. She was out on bail on a March DUI arrest when the fatal wreck took place and prosecutors say she should not have been driving or drinking at all. She was also supposed to be in alcohol abuse treatment but prosecutors have said they have no records Phillips has done so.

But Phillips' daughter, Whitney Phillips, said after the hearing Wednesday that her mother has indeed been in treatment.

As proof she offered a certificate Cook Inlet Tribal Council issued her mother in September for completing the first phase of an outpatient alcohol treatment program. Whitney Phillips also has a roster listing about 30 group alcohol treatment meetings she said her mother has attended from August through Oct. 31.

But on Nov. 5, she apparently fell off the wagon.

"She was just really down and out because she had to rely on me to get her around and to do most things for her," said Whitney Phillips, who spoke with her mother in jail this week. "She feels really badly" for the victims' families, she said.

Police say Stovall remains in critical care at Providence Alaska Medical Center.

Clement's family is out of state and trying to get here by the end of the week, according to police. The Forget Me Not Mission, a nonprofit advocacy group against drunken driving, has set up a fund at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union under Louis Clement's name to help his family travel here and to cover funeral expenses, said Royal Bidwell, who cofounded the group with his wife, Nancy.


Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589.

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