Driver in fatal DUI crash sentenced to prison

A judge on Monday sentenced a Wakefield man to 15 years in prison with seven to serve for his role in a 2012 drunken-driving crash that killed one of his passengers.

Dean Philbrick, 48, pleaded no contest to charges of driving to endanger and driving under the influence resulting in death. He was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and lose his license for five years after he's released.

An attorney for Philbrick said her client was drunk when he crashed the car he was driving into a telephone pole and a tree on Torrey Road off Route 1 in South Kingstown on February 2012.

A passenger in the back seat of Philbrick's car, 23-year-old Erica Knowles, died. Philbrick and another passenger were hurt.

According to police, the three people worked together at the Turtle Soup restaurant in Narragansett.

Philbrick's attorney said her client accepts responsibility for his actions.

But with Philbrick's history of three drunken driving charges and leaving the scene of an accident in Maine, Knowles' family wasn't convinced he was sincere.

"We're disappointed, thoroughly disappointed. We felt that the severity of the crime deserved more than that," said Knowles' stepfather, John Priore. "Rehabilitation in Dean Philbrick's case, he's a habitual drunk driver and lawbreaker, so historically he's done this, unfortunately for a living."

The family is also upset with what they consider Rhode Island's lenient drunk driving penalties.

They hope the laws change to deter reckless driving so another person like their daughter isn't taken too soon.

Knowles was studying journalism and women's studies at the University of Rhode Island.