Advertisement

Rebecca Grossman trial: Lawyer says police didn't check other car in crash that killed 2 brothers

VAN NUYS, CA-APRIL 25, 2022: Rebecca Grossman, co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation, leaves Van Nuys Courthouse during a break from her preliminary hearing. Grossman is charged with murder and other counts stemming from a crash in Westlake Village that left two young brothers dead. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Rebecca Grossman is on trial for murder in connection with a Westlake Village crash that left two young brothers dead. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Even before jurors have been seated in the murder trial of Rebecca Grossman, her attorney is seeking to shift the blame for the deaths of two young boys to her onetime lover, a former Dodgers pitcher whose Mercedes sped through the crosswalk where the children were struck.

Los Angeles County prosecutors say Grossman was behind the wheel of a white Mercedes SUV that fatally struck brothers Mark and Jacob Iskander in Westlake Village in September 2020. Authorities say she was driving as fast as 81 mph and traveled a quarter-mile after slamming into the children before her car shut down.

Grossman was driving behind Scott Erickson, who earlier in the day had been drinking cocktails with the L.A. socialite at a nearby restaurant, according to testimony from Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators during a preliminary hearing in 2022.

But Tony Buzbee, Grossman's lead attorney, argued in court this week that sheriff’s investigators never checked Erickson’s black Mercedes SUV for damage, even though he drove through the marked crosswalk a few seconds before Grossman.

Read more: 'Nobody stopped': Who struck two brothers in a crosswalk? Murder trial begins for L.A. socialite

Prosecutors say Grossman and Erickson were romantically involved and driving from Julio’s Agave Grill to a Westlake Village home the evening of Sept. 29, 2020, in separate SUVs when they “raced” through the marked crosswalk on Triunfo Canyon Road at Saddle Mountain Drive, with Erickson in the lead.

Two witnesses traveling in another vehicle testified during a preliminary hearing that they saw Erickson's SUV speeding ahead of Grossman's.

Jake Sands testified that the black SUV — Erickson's — approached the crosswalk first. There, Nancy Iskander and her three sons — Mark, 11; Jacob, 8; and Zachary, 5 — were making their way across the residential street.

The driver tapped his brakes, Sands testified. “It swerved and avoided the family right before," he told the court in 2022.

Yasamin Eftekhari said the white Mercedes — driven by Grossman — was unable to avoid the older boys, who were farther into the street. Nancy Iskander was able to grab her youngest son and dive out of the way.

“There was a family walking in the road. The white car struck the two kids in the road,” Eftekhari said. “The first child to get hit, he was up against the side [of the road]. I didn’t see the second child get hit.”

Read more: Lawyer for L.A.-area socialite charged with murder for running over two boys says crosswalk was a danger

But during a courtroom discussion over evidence on Tuesday, Buzbee alleged that a sheriff’s investigator never checked Erickson's vehicle after the fatal crash and took his word in a phone interview that he was driving his 2007 Mercedes SUV at the time.

Buzbee told L.A. County Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino that Erickson produced that vehicle for examination in civil litigation after the deadly crash. The lawyer then showed a photo of a 2016 Mercedes-AMG that the retired World Series winner acquired in May 2019, alleging that it was the SUV Erickson was driving that day.

Buzbee said he would produce witnesses at trial to lay the foundation for the photo exhibit, adding that it was particularly relevant because one witness told an investigator she saw two vehicles strike the children seconds apart.

"Why would law enforcement not look at this vehicle that he was driving that night?" Buzbee asked. "Why wouldn't they, especially when you had a witness, the first witness that provided a witness account, said there were two collisions three to five seconds apart? Why wouldn't they go look at his vehicle?"

Then-Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Scott Erickson
Scott Erickson pitches during a Dodgers game in 2005. He denies any wrongdoing in the deaths of two boys in Westlake Village in 2020. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Deputy Dist. Atty. Ryan Gould said prosecutors had no evidence to support the exhibit, including knowing who took the photograph that Grossman's lawyer wanted to use.

Prior to Tuesday's first day of jury selection, the defense had suggested a mystery black vehicle may be central to its case, but Buzbee shifted that focus to Erickson, seeking to sow the seeds of reasonable doubt and possibly previewing the defense's strategy when testimony gets underway later this month.

Grossman, 60, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and one count of hit-and-run driving resulting in death.

Erickson, 55, was charged with misdemeanor reckless driving. His case was resolved in February 2022, with a judge ordering him to make a public service announcement geared toward high school students about the importance of safe driving. Erickson has denied any wrongdoing.

Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.