Venice, California – In Venice Beach a motorist sped his car down the beach boardwalk killing an Italian honeymooner and harming an additional 17 other people on that boardwalk. He was convicted last week of second-degree murder along with other charges.
The driver, Nathan Campbell, was attempting to get revenge for being ripped off in a drug deal that went bad. He had lost $35 in the drug deal on August 3, 2013 and with great abandon aimed his Dodge Avenger at those on the boardwalk. This was stated by Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila to those in the jury box. Campbell stated that he was trying to shift into reverse and the car somehow slipped into drive.
The 39-year-old Campbell could face life in prison at sentencing on August 5, 2015 for the murder of Alice Gruppioni, prosecutors stated. Campbell was also convicted of assault with a deadly weapon for the 17 people he had injured during his rampage. He was also found guilty of 10 counts of leaving the scene of an accident.
Campbell’s defense attorney, James Cooper III, admitted that the defendant did kill Gruppioni and caused injury to the others, but said he had tried to avoid hitting them and wasn’t guilty of murder.
Witnesses stated that Campbell was smiling as he jumped the curb and drove through the crowd, striking Gruppioni and carrying her 300 feet on the front of the car before she fell to the ground and died. The victim and her husband, Christian Casadei, were honeymooning from Bologna, Italy.
Gruppioni’s widower fought back tears while the trial went on. He described in court how he was trying to pull her off the hood of the car. Casadei stated that she died while he held her hand. “We deeply miss Alice and our hearts will always be with our beautiful wife and daughter,” said a statement from attorney Gregory Bentley.
Prosecutors showed video of the panicked pedestrians while they tried to jump out of the way of the car that reached speeds of 35 miles per hour.
Jurors were told that Campbell wanted to run over the drug dealer that took his money yet never returned with the drugs that he had paid for. “Point them out; I’ll run them over,” Campbell told a homeless man before getting in his car.
Prosecutors wanted a first-degree murder conviction, but had to settle on second-degree murder when the jury got hung up on the third day of deliberation according to spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani.
Campbell was from Colorado with a history of petty crimes. He surrendered two hours after the onslaught, in Santa Monica. Campbell was legally drunk when he turned himself in, and stated that he was drinking Vodka after the accident. He had been fired two months earlier from managing a sobriety residence for abusing drugs and alcohol.
“Yes, my client did cause this tragic, nonsensical event,” Cooper said in his closing argument. “Mr. Campbell is a killer. However, unintentional killings are not murder.” Many would argue that this man’s actions were intentional and he indeed knew his actions were wrong and could possibly kill someone.