A philanthropist must stand trial after allegedly murdering two young boys who were crossing the street with their family nearly two years ago.
Rebecca Grossman, 58, was behind the wheel of an SUV during the incident on Sept. 29, 2020, and though her defense maintains it was a “tragic traffic accident,” Judge Shellie Samuels said there is evidence of a hit-and-run, according to The Los Angeles Times.
In the court’s version of events, Grossman was playing “a high-speed game of chicken” with former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Scott Erickson when she reached speeds more than twice the 45-mph speed limit and struck Jacob Iskander, 8, and Mark Iskander, 11, who were going over a crosswalk with family.
Audio played by the defense in court showed Grossman telling 911 operators from a Mercedes-Benz that she did not know what she hit and that her airbag just went off. But Samuels reasoned that Grossman was trying to flee, based on the defendant trying to start the ignition 14 times after she finally stopped. The judge reportedly denied the defense an opportunity to show evidence their client stopped of her own volition—rather than stopping because of her vehicle breaking down.
“The evidence is the defendant, after hitting the children, proceeded to the driveway,” the judge said. “She did not come back. She did not turn around. She could have walked back to the scene. She hit and run, and that is what she did. She didn’t apply the brakes after she hit the children. That is hit-and-run.”
Testimony at the preliminary hearing showed that Grossman had a history of speeding—receiving tickets at a canyon road months before the crash, and back in 2013 on the 101 Freeway. L.A. County Sheriff’s investigator Scott Shean took the stand, telling the court that a trooper said Grossman was clocked driving 92 mph. The trooper warned her she might kill someone. In Shean’s second-hand account, the trooper said he remembered the incident after all this time because Grossman said, as Shean paraphrased it, “He better hope he doesn’t need to come to the Grossman Burn Center for help.” Grossman co-founded the Grossman Burn Foundation with her doctor husband Peter Grossman.
The judge pointed out vehicle data which said Grossman had reached 81 mph about a second and a half before the crash. Grossman hit the boys at 71.7 mph, sheriff’s deputy Robert Apodaca calculated. He said that her car computer displayed 73 mph. Mark was thrown 254 feet. It was the farthest he had heard of a person being flung in a crash, the deputy said.
Shean testified that Grossman’s blood alcohol level was at the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
The defense highlighted test results showing their client’s blood alcohol level was at .074 percent and .073 percent, but the Orange County lab criminalist Kelly Brown acknowledged to prosecutors during cross-examination that it was possible for that amount to decrease over time for the Orange County test to show lower results than the one from Los Angeles County.
Erickson has been charged with a count of misdemeanor reckless driving. Attorney Mark Werksman denied that his client witnessed the crash or played a role in it.
“He wasn’t racing,” he said, according to a joint article from the Associated Press and City News Service in Feb. 1, 2021. “He’s charged with one count of reckless driving. He wasn’t driving recklessly. He had nothing to do with this accident, really, he didn’t, and any suggestion that he did is just false.”
Testimony from Grossman’s preliminary hearing showed that both she and Erickson had been drinking cocktails at a restaurant the day of the crash. A cocktail waitress identified as a friend of Shean’s reportedly said they served Grossman margaritas in the hours before the incident.
Jacob and Mark’s mother Nancy Iskander testified to walking with three of her sons at the crosswalk. She managed to take her 5-year-old son to safety after hearing engine roars and two SUVs driving toward them, but she found her older sons almost dead. Mark’s arm was broken and he had “blood coming out his mouth,” she said. He died at the scene. Her 5-year-old son, who survived the incident, saw paramedics perform CPR on Jacob, she said.
“They didn’t stop before the intersection,” she said. “They didn’t stop at the intersection. They didn’t stop when an 11-year-old was on the hood of the car.”
It is with much sadness that Oaks Christian School confirms the loss of one of our sixth-grade students, Mark Karim Iskander. As reported in the media, Mark and his younger brother Jacob tragically died as a result of… https://t.co/hCctyDFMGp pic.twitter.com/7lTjyCPe4l
— OaksChristianSchool (@OaksChristian) October 2, 2020
Iskander welcomed the judge’s decision to go to trial.
“We’re definitely happy,” she said after the hearing, according to KABC. “We’re thankful to judge Samuels. We think the whole justice system, they looked at the facts and they made the right decision. Nothing will bring Mark and Jacob back and the pain in my heart will remain, but we are happy with the justice we received today.”
[Screenshot of Grossman via Grossman Burn Foundation; screenshot of investigation via KTTV]
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