Friday, August 16, 2013

Murder LA 000030

by James Cohen


Gruppioni and Casadei
from a memorial page on facebook
Alice Gruppioni and Christian Casadei were married two weeks ago. There's a house in the works back in their native Italy but for the moment the happy couple are enjoying their honeymoon in Los Angeles. Alice -- pronounced a-LEE-chey -- entered the family business at 19 and now at 32 is a manager. Her father and her husband are both businessmen, father Valerio fairly well known in Bologna for having been president of the town's soccer team. He is now president of Sira Group, which sells "radiators for heating."

About 6 P.M. they find themselves at the Venice Beach Boardwalk.

Unbeknownst to them a blue Dodge Avenger passes through some concrete pylons and onto the boardwalk.

Mustafa Balci, one of the area's merchants selling handmade pendants from a tent on the pedestrian-only walkway doesn't think much of the vehicle that just turned around the corner. Sometimes drivers make wrong turns and have to reverse course. This driver doesn't. This driver charges forward.

Balci is struck by the sedan, which also upends his business and throws his wife through the air.

A guest at the Cadillac Hotel hears the car's engine and looks down on the scene from the second-floor balcony of his room. He sees the car zigzagging to hit people and dragging an ATM machine.

from AP, via la Repubblica
Other witnesses report hearing a screeching before seeing the car, apparently from some mannequins that got stuck under the chassis.

The driver crashes into a sunglass stand as he tries to get out through a parking lot. Apparently the stand makes this route too difficult so he backs up and leaves a different way.

At least 17 people are hurt, including Alice and Christian. Alice dies of "blunt-force trauma to the head and neck." The coroner lists her death as a homicide.


38-year-old Nathan Louis Campbell turned himself in to police within a couple of hours. NBC4 reports the man failed a sobriety test at that time, but that doesn't prove he was intoxicated before that. Police believe surveillance camera footage from a restaurant down the street from the boardwalk shows Campbell pacing near his car before suddenly leaving.

Prosecutors have not put forward a motive yet. Campbell does have a record for small crimes like trespassing and shoplifting in other states and was notably arrested in Florida in 2008 for "reckless driving with alcohol."

The Dodge Avenger was a recent purchase from a dealership in Littleton, Colorado and he had only recently arrived back in Los Angeles. He reportedly worked odd jobs through the Malibu Community Labor Exchange a while back but disappeared for a few months before showing up again with his new car.

An acquaintance of his named Shawn Baird claims Campbell asked for help clearing out his trunk to make room for abducting someone he was having trouble with. Baird also said "I saw him on his birthday. I wish I saw him the next day because maybe I could have talked some sense into him." -- which suggests that the boardwalk incident may have taken place the day after Campbell's birthday.

Campbell was arraigned on Tuesday, August 6th, pleading not guilty to murder, 17 counts of hit-and-run and 16 counts of assault with a deadly weapon. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

from the LA Times