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Man sentenced to almost 15 years after killing pregnant Jefferson County mom, toddler

William Phillips was found guilty of four charges of reckless homicide and two charges of reckless endangerment on June 11, 2022.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The driver who was convicted of killing a mother, her unborn child and her son in Jefferson County in 2019 has been sentenced. 

William Phillips was found guilty on multiple counts of reckless homicide and reckless endangerment on June 11, 2022. 

Phillips was sentenced to almost 15 years total in prison on August 1 by Judge Duane Slone in Jefferson County. He has already served over 3 years while awaiting trial, meaning he will effectively serve another 12 years at most. 

On June 17, 2019, investigators said Phillips was driving west on East Main Street in Jefferson City when he swerved and intentionally hit a 61-year-old pedestrian Tillman Gunter. He survived with minor injuries.

Police said Phillips continued driving before hitting and killing Sierra Cahoon, her unborn child and 2-year-old Nolan Cahoon at the intersection of Russell Avenue and West Main Street.

The deaths of Sierra, Nolan and baby Cahoon hit the Jefferson County community hard. Nolan attended First Steps Preschool at the First United Methodist Church—just right down the road from where the crash happened.

Cahoon's teachers said he was a happy 2-year-old who would always give them hugs and high-fives.

"He was a joy," said Jessica Lawson, the director of the preschool at the time. "He would walk through the door smiling every morning."

Carson-Newman University said Sierra Cahoon was the wife of one of its assistant athletic trainers, Matt Cahoon.

"Our hearts are breaking for one of our own. We take comfort in knowing that God also feels our pain and hears our prayers. Because of this, we ask for prayers for Matt and his family now and in the days ahead," Paul Percy, Carson-Newman's former interim president, said at the time.

Phillips is eligible for parole in a year and a half. 

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