A Hidden Hills woman drove nearly half a mile after fatally striking two boys on a Westlake Village road at high speed and told a deputy her Mercedes-Benz had become disabled after she "hit something," according to testimony and video played during the third day of her preliminary hearing Wednesday.
By the time another Los Angeles County deputy came to administer a DUI test to Rebecca Grossman after the Sept. 29, 2020, crash, a Sheriff's Department video shows her repeatedly asking him versions of the question: "What is going on with these children?"
She repeatedly interrupted the deputy, who eventually determined she was impaired, trying to find out the fate of Mark Iskander, 11, and his brother Jacob, 8, who were in a crosswalk with their family on Triunfo Canyon Road when they were struck by Grossman's SUV.
She told the deputy that her husband, Dr. Peter Grossman, is a surgeon and could help, adding that her home is nearby. "Can someone let me know how the children are? … The officer said some children were hit," she said.
Defense attorneys for Grossman played the video while questioning Deputy Michael Kelly during the third day of the hearing to determine whether the 58-year-old co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation should be tried on charges of murder, vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and hit-and-run driving resulting in death.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Shellie Samuels had already heard testimony that Grossman was driving as fast as 81 mph seconds before she hit the boys crossing the road with their mother, Nancy Iskander, and their 5-year-old brother at about 7:10 p.m.
Grossman had been tailing at high speed a sport utility vehicle driven by her friend, former Dodger Scott Erickson, who was first to go through the crosswalk and swerved to avoid the mother and three boys, witnesses testified earlier in the hearing.
Eyewitnesses testified Tuesday that Grossman's Mercedes followed Erickson's black SUV and came up behind them on Triunfo Canyon Road "going fast, above the speed limit, freeway speed or maybe faster." During the questioning of witnesses, Grossman's legal team suggested Erickson's vehicle would have blocked Grossman's view of anyone in the crosswalk.
Deputy Rafael Mejia testified Wednesday that he was sent to find Grossman's white SUV after it continued to drive away from the fatal crash scene.
He said he found Grossman by her damaged vehicle smelling of alcohol with watery eyes, and she told him that "she had hit something" and that her "vehicle was disabled by Mercedes-Benz" after the airbag deployed.
"She was frantic, talking fast," Mejia said, noting that he called for a deputy specializing in driving under the influence to check her.
Deputy Michael Kelly, who administered a DUI test, testified he determined she was "impaired." When he first found her sitting in the back of a patrol SUV, he said, she had a weak smell of alcohol, but she was not slurring her words.
In the video, Grossman tells Kelly she had one drink hours ago at Julio's restaurant, about 5 p.m. - a single margarita of normal size.
"It was dark. I came round the corner, my airbag deploys, and they are telling me children are involved," she tells the deputy.
Judge Samuels said Grossman's concern has no bearing on whether she committed the crimes: "I would expect any human being to be concerned about children."
Two breathalyzer tests administered about 90 minutes after the crash showed her blood-alcohol level was slightly below the legal limit for driving in California.
The prosecutor asked Kelly about the additive effect of certain drugs and alcohol, and the deputy said some medications, when combined with alcoholic drinks, can have a larger effect. The prosecutor asked whether Diazepam would be such medication, and Kelly replied, "yes."
Grossman's lawyers tried to get an additional witness added, arguing that an expert would testify she stopped the vehicle of her own accord and did not commit hit and run.
But the judge said it was too late and challenged Grossman's attorney Alan Eisner, noting that someone had tried to start the SUV 14 times after it stopped.
On Tuesday, a crash expert for the Orange County district attorney's office testified that Grossman's Mercedes cuts off the fuel to the engine after a crash to prevent fire, which would eventually force the driver to stop.
The hearing was continued until May 4, when it is expected to resume.
Facing 34 years to life in prison if convicted, Grossman has pleaded not guilty and is out on $2-million bail.
To get a second-degree murder conviction, prosecutors must prove Grossman acted with implied malice and knew the act of driving at a speed of more than 70 mph in a residential area was dangerous to human life. Prosecutors said Grossman's history of speeding and warnings she received were a form of notice; she had two prior speeding tickets on a nearby freeway a decade ago and that same year on Kanan Road in Malibu.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.