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Aurora drunk driver who struck, killed woman on sidewalk in 2018 sentenced to prison

Jana Phillips.jpg
Timothy Knutson.jpg
Posted at 8:48 AM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-21 10:50:26-04

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — An Aurora man was sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to drunk driving and killing a woman who was walking on a sidewalk in 2018.

Timothy Knutson, 40, of Aurora, was sentenced to 14 years in prison on May 19. He pleaded guilty on March 12, 2021 to vehicular homicide DUI and leaving the scene of an accident involving death. Both are Class 3 felonies. He faces 10 years for the vehicular homicide count and four years for leaving the scene.

Timothy Knutson.jpg

On Oct. 28, 2018, Knutson left a bar and decided to drive home drunk in his Jeep Patriot. At the same time, 24-year-old Jana Phillips, who had also been out that evening, was walking home on E. Iliff Avenue, according to the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office.

As Knutson drove home, he jumped a curb and drove down a sidewalk, hitting Phillips near E. Iliff Avenue and S. Rifle Street and dragging her a short distance. He continued driving.

A passerby found her body. She was dead at the scene and had massive injuries. The crash's impact had stripped off her socks and shoes, according to the district attorney's office.

Police arrested Knutson nearby on a drunk driving charge. They found three open alcohol containers, numerous empty containers and a marijuana cigar in his Jeep. Several parts of his car were left at the scene of the crash and along the road for about a quarter mile, according to the district attorney's office.

Deputy District Attorney Meghan Gallo said Phillips had no chance to get away from the car.

"She was struck and dragged, and her injuries were devastating,” Gallo said during her sentencing argument. “He got behind the wheel drunk, barreled down a sidewalk and took out an innocent 24-year-old woman. She was run down like roadkill.”

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

Gallo also noted that Knutson's blood-alcohol level at the time was between 0.26 and 0.28, and he had THC and Kratom in his system.

“He wasn’t simply drunk but extraordinarily drunk. He wasn’t simply high but extraordinarily high,” she said. “Five hours after the crash he was still twice over the legal limit.”

Before the sentencing, Arapahoe County District Court Judge Darren Vahle noted Knutson's past arrests and substance abuse issues. Vahle said he did not address these problems.

“This defendant has failed on probation before and has had numerous crimes over a period of years,” Vahle said. “This is a fully grown, mature man fully responsible for his actions. ... It’s ironic that both of these people were drinking that night. One cared about people in society and was walking home. The other barreled down a sidewalk and killed someone. … The appropriate punishment makes a statement to society that we care about people’s lives. It sends a statement that we cannot drink and drive, and if you do, there is a punishment.”

Phillips' sisters and mother attended the sentencing.

“My sister did nothing but good for the world. She served a purpose, and she meant more than something left on the side of the street,” one sister told the court.