She attended Loyola Marymount University, where she was enrolled in an alcohol and drug counseling certification program and was hired by Twin Town Treatment Centers a year ago to work with other addicts in a group setting, said David Lisonbee, the company CEO.
She ran evening sessions at the Torrance location and consistently received high marks on evaluations by patients, he said. Wilkins often stayed late to meet one-on-one with patients who were struggling and helped one client with homework assignments after realizing he couldn't read, Jimenez said.
"We've gotten some calls from people saying, 'She really saved my life,'" Jimenez said. "Everybody loved Sherri, the employees, the patients, just everybody loved her."
Most recently, Wilkins was thrilled with the birth of her granddaughter — her first grandchild — but struggled with ankle pain from an accident and was considering surgery to fix the problem, Jimenez said.
On her Myspace profile, Wilkins noted that she had been drug-free for 11 years, was a Buddhist and was planning trips to Chicago to see her daughter, a medical intern, and to Hawaii.
"I used to be into drugs very heavy, with that came terrible choices, the loss of all my family and freedom. Today four of my children are in my life," Wilkins wrote.
Lisonbee, her boss, confirmed the woman in the Myspace profile was Wilkins.
Court records show Wilkins was convicted of first-degree burglary in 1989 and a month later of having narcotics while in custody. In 1994, she was convicted along with a co-defendant on one count of burglary and given nine years in prison.
In 2001, Wilkins was convicted of having a controlled substance into a jail or a prison, said Luis Patino, spokesman for the California Department of Corrections.
Prison records show she was paroled in 2008, he said.
Two years later, Wilkins was arrested for hit-and-run after she knocked over a power pole that was then hit by three other cars, said Assistant City Attorney Patrick Sullivan.
She had no alcohol or drugs in her system, however, and the case was dismissed when she and the owners of other vehicles reached an agreement, he said.