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Drunken driver sentenced to 14 years for killing woman walking on sidewalk

Jana Phillips, 24, was walking home in Aurora in October 2018 when the driver jumped the curb and hit her, and then kept driving.

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — A man whose blood-alcohol level was well above the legal limit when he drove onto a sidewalk and hit and killed a woman in 2018 was sentenced this week to 14 years in prison, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office.

Several family members of Jana Phillips were in the Arapahoe County courtroom on Wednesday when a judge sentenced the man who killed her, the DA's Office said in a news release.

"My sister deserved to live," one of Phillips' sisters told the court. "She didn't deserve to die, no matter the weapon."

Timothy Knutson, 40, decided to drive home after drinking at a bar on the evening of Oct. 28, 2018. He jumped the curb near East Iliff Avenue and South Rifle Street and hit Phillips, who was walking home after she had been out that evening. He dragged her for a short distance and then kept driving, the DA's Office said.

A passerby found Phillips. She had sustained massive injuries and was dead at the scene. She was 24 years old.

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> Video above: A family's message after losing a daughter, published Nov. 1, 2018

The Aurora Police Department (APD) arrested Knutson about a half-mile away. Police found three open alcohol containers, numerous empty containers and marijuana in the vehicle. A blood test found THC and Kratom in his system, and his blood-alcohol level was between 0.26 and 0.28 at the time of the crash, the DA's Office said.

APD linked him to Phillips' death by the car parts he left at the scene and for a quarter-mile down the roadway, according to the release.

"Jana had no chance to get away from a car barreling down on her," Deputy District Attorney Meghan Gallo told the court during her sentencing argument. "She was struck and dragged, and her injuries were devastating."

Knutson pleaded guilty on March 12 to vehicular homicide DUI and leaving the scene of an accident involving death. Judge Darren Vahle sentenced him to 10 years for the vehicular homicide and four years for leaving the scene, the DA's Office said.

"This defendant has failed on probation before and has had numerous crimes over a period of years," Vahle said about Knutson's past arrests and substance abuse issues. "This is a fully grown, mature man responsible for his actions."

RELATED: Aurora police arrest driver suspected of killing pedestrian, leaving scene

Phillips' family members said at a vigil after her death that she was four months shy of graduating from Concord Career Institute, where she was studying to be a dental assistant. She previously worked in school security, family said.

"My sister did nothing but good for the world," one of Phillips' sisters said at the sentencing. "She served a purpose, and she meant more than something left on the side of the street."

Credit: Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office
Timothy Knutson

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