A man accused of crashing his car through a crowd of people on the Venice Boardwalk -- killing an Italian woman on her honeymoon -- was ordered Wednesday to stand trial after a preliminary hearing that included testimony from witnesses and victims.
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Arrraignment for Nathan Louis Campbell was scheduled for Jan. 22. The 38-year-old man is charged with murder, 17 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 10 counts of leaving the scene of an accident.
Campbell had originally been charged with 18 counts of leaving the scene of an accident, but prosecutors agreed during a preliminary hearing to drop some of of those counts, and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Antonio Barreto Jr. dismissed one more.
His attorney claimed during the preliminary hearing that the crash was an accident, but victims testified that the driver appeared to maneuver the vehicle toward boardwalk visitors. Alice Gruppioni, a 32-year-old woman visiting Venice on her honeymoon, was killed when Campbell allegedly sped south down Ocean Front Walk from Dudley Avenue to near Sunset Avenue Aug. 3, causing chaos and panic at one of Los Angeles' biggest tourist magnets.
During testimony at the preliminary hearing last month, John Drolette told the judge that he was standing on the second-floor balcony of the nearby Cadillac Hotel when a car entered the boardwalk.
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"He hit an ATM machine and just shattered it basically," Drolette said, noting that the vehicle then went toward the beach and hit a vendor's tent before veering left and going down the boardwalk.
He testified that a woman was knocked onto the vehicle's hood and two vendors were knocked back toward the sand as the car "revved up" and "continued down the boardwalk."
"A little bit further down the boardwalk, her body rolled off the vehicle," Drolette said of the woman who was atop the car's hood.
He said that people started screaming when the tent was hit and that people "naturally parted."
"It went left, right, zigging down the boardwalk, hitting people who had moved out of the way," he added.
Mustafa Balci, a vendor who sitting with his wife in a booth on Ocean Front Walk, testified that he saw the vehicle hit an ATM but expected it to stop as it continued toward him.
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"When the car hit the trash can, it slowed him down a little bit. I thought it was going to stop right there, but it continued," Balci said. "That trash can saved my life."
He said the vehicle's front bumper hit both of his knees, which he said have been "weak" since the crash. He said his wife was thrown about eight feet to the grass.
In other testimony, Los Angeles police Detective Robert Riske said he spoke with the dead woman's husband, Christian Casadei, and was informed that they were newlyweds who were visiting Los Angeles and who were due to travel next to Tahiti. The woman's husband told police the two were walking southbound on Ocean Front Walk when they heard the revving of a car behind them.
Casadei told police that he grabbed his wife and tried to run toward a building, but that she was no where to be seen after the car came toward them. Casadei told police he saw his wife -- who was bleeding and appeared to be unconscious -- surrounded by bystanders further down the boardwalk, the detective testified.
Los Angeles police Sgt. Benjamin Zucker testified that he could smell a "moderate" odor of alcohol when he met with Campbell a few hours later. He said Campbell told him that he had consumed vodka after the crash.