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Woman accused of plowing into mother, kids had 2 prior DUIs

A woman whose driver's license had been revoked for drunken driving plowed into a group of children and adults walking on an Anchorage street early Sunday morning, police said, sending a mother and her two young children to the hospital with injuries.

The most seriously hurt was a 4-year-old boy who suffered a collapsed lung, police said. He was in the intensive care unit of a local hospital Sunday afternoon.

Police said the driver, Erica Merrill, 34, had a blood alcohol content of .287 about 90 minutes after the collision — more than three times the legal limit to drive. She has two previous convictions for drunken driving, according to prosecutors.

Merrill was arrested at the scene of the accident, which happened just after midnight near the intersection of 88th Avenue and Molanary Drive, in southwest Anchorage. The area is just north and east of the intersection of Dimond Boulevard and Jewel Lake Road.

Merrill was driving eastbound on 88th Avenue in a Kia SUV "when she came upon three adults and four children walking on the side of the road," police spokeswoman Anita Shell said in an email Sunday.

The group was walking on the south side of 88th Avenue, between a large snow berm and the street. There is no sidewalk on the south side of the street.

With the SUV bearing down on the group one of the adults, Benjamin Phillips, "was able to move his 4-month-old son and his 5-year-old nephew over a snowbank," according to court documents.

Phillips "yelled to Patricia Shawley to get out of the way," but the vehicle hit her and her two children.

"Merrill struck an infant in a stroller, a 4-year old boy, and the children's mother before the vehicle came to a stop," Shell said. "The infant sustained cuts and abrasions, the 4-year-old sustained a head injury and abrasions to his face and their mother suffered a leg injury; none of the victims' injuries appear to be life threatening."

Phillips, his child and nephew and another adult were uninjured, according to police.

Merrill at first tried to flee the scene but was stopped by witnesses, Shell said.

Merrill appeared in Anchorage Jail Court on Sunday afternoon and asked for a public defender.

Merrill told Magistrate Judge Christina Teaford that she supports two children and earns about $20,000 per year.

The 34-year-old has a history of convictions for assault, family violence, child neglect and child abuse, according to documents filed with the court, in addition to two drunken driving convictions in 2007 and 2010.

"There is a long history of alcohol abuse," Teaford said.

Prosecutor Aaron Jabaay told the judge that Merrill was "pulling out of a bar" right before the accident and called her a "significant and ongoing danger to the community."

The Trophy Lounge is adjacent to the site of the accident.

Bar manager Bob De Malli said that he doesn't believe Merrill was served at the lounge Saturday night.

"I know she wasn't in there last night and we have cameras," he said.

A Trophy Lounge security guard roving the parking lot witnessed the aftermath of the accident and helped prevent Merrill from walking away, he said.

Merrill faces felony assault and drunk driving charges, as well as charges for driving with without a license or insurance.

Her bail was set at $40,000 with a required third party custodian.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at or 257-4344.


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