Los Angeles socialite found guilty of murder for striking two boys with car

<span>Rebecca Grossman, left, heads to Van Nuys courthouse in Los Angeles on 14 February 2024.</span><span>Photograph: Irfan Khan/AP</span>
Rebecca Grossman, left, heads to Van Nuys courthouse in Los Angeles on 14 February 2024.Photograph: Irfan Khan/AP

Rebecca Grossman, a Los Angeles socialite accused of fatally striking two young brothers crossing the street, was found guilty of murder and other charges on Friday.

Prosecutors had said the 60-year-old was impaired and speeding in her Mercedes when she hit brothers Mark Iskander, 11, and Jacob Iskander, 8, at over 70mph. Grossman’s defense had argued that what happened was an accident and that the boys were first struck by another car.

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The jury found Grossman guilty on all counts for the 2020 incident: two felony counts each of second-degree murder and gross vehicular manslaughter, and one felony count of hit-and-run driving resulting in death. She faces 34 years to life in prison.

The murder charges were unusual, the Los Angeles Times reported last month, as she did not also face a charge of driving under the influence. Grossman’s blood alcohol levels were not above the legal limit, but prosecutors said that she was “impaired with alcohol and Valium”.

“Rebecca Grossman killed these two children, and she committed murder,” Jamie Castro, the deputy district attorney, said during the trial.

The verdict marks the end of a years-long legal saga. The accident took place on 29 September 2020 in Westlake Village, about 40 miles (64.37km) from downtown Los Angeles. The Iskander boys were with their family, who were on scooters and skates, around 7pm and were using a crosswalk when they were struck on Triunfo Canyon Road.

Grossman was driving behind Scott Erickson, a retired Dodgers pitcher who prosecutors said Grossman had been drinking with at a nearby restaurant. The pair were in a romantic relationship at the time, the prosecution said.

Witnesses said that Erickson, who they described as speeding, swerved around the family while Grossman briefly braked but struck them. She continued down the road where her car came to a stop due to a safety feature.

“She had a history of speeding. She’d texted about it,” Castro said. “She acted with disregard for human life.”

A collision investigator testified in a preliminary hearing that 1.5 seconds before the crash, Grossman was driving at 81mph before braking to 73mph, far over the speed limit of 45mph, the LA Times previously reported.

During the month long trial, the prosecution also highlighted texts from Grossman to a friend in which she said she had been distracted by a woman in roller skates – the Iskander boys’ mother, crashing on the roadside and turned her head “probably one or two seconds longer than I should have”.

Her attorney, Tony Buzbee, said that while Grossman was distracted that didn’t mean she hit the boys.

Grossman, who is a cofounder of the Grossman Burn Foundation alongside her husband Dr Peter Grossman, had pleaded not guilty to the charges. Buzbee has said that his client was not speeding and throughout the trial blamed Erickson, arguing that he struck the children first.

“She was not impaired, she was not racing, she was not going the speed that they claim and she never fled the scene,” he previously said.

He also argued that the incident was inadequately investigated by police.