DUI victim’s family speaks out in support of Amelia’s Law

Linda and Joseph Johnson signed a petition in support of the "Amelia's Law" bill.

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – After hearing the bill known as Amelia’s Law stalled in the State House, another family who lost their child to drunk driving is speaking out.

Nicole Dotson was just 23 in 2008 when she was hit by a drunk driver. She died at the scene.

The story of Amelia Keown, the teen killed this summer in a car crash five years later, and her mother’s fight for Amelia’s Law, hit hard with Nicole’s family. They say they’ve been asking for tougher laws ever since.

“When I saw [Amelia’s mom] on television, there was an immediate connection because I could feel the pain she is feeling, because I’m experiencing it firsthand,” said Joseph Johnson, the grandfather of Dotson. “It has been five years since Nikki was killed by a drunk driver going the wrong way on the interstate.”

Dotson and her best friend were driving on I-640 on April 11, 2008 when 20-year-old Matthew Philbrook hit them head on. Philbrook was driving on the wrong side of the road and crashed into two vehicles, Dotson’s and another.

Her grandfather, who raised her, remembers the last moment he saw her.

“She hugged my neck and gave me a big kiss and said ‘I love you papaw, I’ll see you tomorrow,'” Johnson recalls.

Philbrook had a blood alcohol level of .27. He was sentenced to one year in prison and nine years probation, a sentence the Johnson’s felt was too light.

“Every time we go to visit Nikki, I feel like I have to make an excuse to her because I have failed her,” Johnson said.

According to the Johnson’s, Philbrook has had several problems with his probation terms since his release. They hope a bill like Amelia’s Law would help.

“To me this is my only way to get something done for Nikki,” said Linda Johnson, Nikki’s grandmother, who signed a petition in support of the bill. “This guy is still out here doing whatever he wants to do, doing the same thing as before, and nothing is being done about it, nothing beings stopped.”

Amelia’s Law was put on hold in the legislature but the bill’s sponsors plan to try again next year.

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