Friends and family gather to remember young woman killed by alleged drunk driver in Aurora

Posted at 7:07 PM, Nov 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-02 00:25:41-04

AURORA, Colo. – Friends and family held a celebration of life at Canterbury Park in Aurora Thursday evening for a young woman who was struck and killed over the weekend by an alleged drunken driver.

Dozens gathered to remember the life of 26-year-old Jana Lashay Phillips, who was found dead on a sidewalk on E. Iliff Ave. early Sunday morning. Timothy Knutson, 37, has been arrested for investigation on vehicular homicide, DUI and a host of other charges in Phillips’ death.

He was formally charged Thursday with vehicular homicide—DUI, vehicular homicide—reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident involving death, DUI and careless driving resulting in death, among other counts.

Phillips family spoke to Denver7 before a vigil held in her honor on Thursday night. 

"It's the worst pain a person could ever feel," Phillips mother April Garcia said. 

Phillips had just turned 26 and was four months away from graduating the Concord Career Institute after studying to be a dental assistant, according to a news release from her aunt, Lisa Garcia Rudolph. She graduated from Eagle Crest High School and had also previously worked in a security role at West Middle School.

"I felt like the world and myself were robbed of someone," her sister Joy said. 

Rudolph said her niece was known to family as “Jana Boo” and described her as a “kind, huge-hearted and loving woman.”

“Jana was generous, forgiving and always smiling. Jana found the good in everything and everyone, almost to a fault,” Rudolph said. “Jana is the rock and foundation for her mother, father, brother, sisters and nephews now and forever.”

Knutson allegedly drove up onto the sidewalk before hitting Phillips and fled the scene. Police announced his arrest on Monday. At Thursday's remembrance, family members said they forgave Knutson for what he is accused of doing.

Phillips’ family said they hoped to draw attention to the plague of drunken driving in Colorado in addition to remembering her.

Knutson’s next court appearance is a preliminary hearing set for Dec. 4.

This is a developing news story and will be updated.