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$44 million awarded in wrongful death suit of ISU graduate killed while driving for Lyft

A gavel sits on a judge's bench. The words "Courts and Crime" appears on top of it.

The family of an Illinois State University graduate has been awarded more than $44 million related to the 2022 killing of a rideshare driver in Urbana.

Tyjohn Williams, 18, of Champaign is accused of entering Kristian Philpotts' Lyft vehicle and shooting Philpotts in the back.

Philpotts' family filed a wrongful death suit against Lyft, Williams and Williams' mother Tia Williams, citing the Parental Responsibility Law. Williams was a minor at the time of the alleged murder. On April 12, County Judge Benjamin Dyer ruled in favor of the family, assigning $44,724,193 in damages to Tyjohn and Tia Williams.

Attorney Bryant Greening confirmed Lyft’s involvement had already been resolved, according to WCIA in Champaign.

In an email to WGLT, Philpotts’ mother Marla Rice said parents should be held liable for their children’s criminal behavior.

"I think if the parents started getting arrested as well, then some of these crimes would decrease,” she said. “It's unfortunate that this did not happen in my son's case, but maybe it will prevent someone else from losing their child and going through what myself and family are going through with the loss of our Kristian.”

Williams is charged with murder in an ongoing criminal case. That trial is scheduled to start in June. Two others who entered the car with Williams in an attempted robbery pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and were sentenced to probation. According to police, Williams shot Philpotts in the back. Philpotts crashed and was found near the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.

“No amount of money will bring him back or replace him, but this is the start of justice for us because they have been now held accountable and there is still more justice to come,” Rice said.

Philpotts held degrees from ISU and Eastern Illinois University. He was working toward attending veterinary school at the University of Illinois at the time of his death. His family established a scholarship for ISU students studying veterinary science. In a joint dedication at Miller Park Zoo, Bloomington, Normal, Charleston, Campaign and Urbana declared July 17 as honorary Kristian “KP” Philpotts Day.

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.