A Redondo Beach woman accused of driving while drugged and plowing her car through a group of pedestrians who had just left a church Christmas concert, killing three women and a 6-year-old boy, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to criminal charges.
Margo Julie Bronstein, 56, is charged with four felony counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and one felony count of driving under the influence of a drug causing injury.
According to police, Bronstein ran a red light around 8 p.m. Dec. 17 and plowed into a group of pedestrians who had just attended a Christmas concert at St. James Catholic School and Parish near Pacific Coast Highway and Vincent Street in Redondo Beach.
The group was walking across PCH when they were struck by the white Saturn. The driver of the northbound car continued through the intersection, swerved into the southbound lanes and slammed into another vehicle — all while dragging 6-year-old Samuel Gaza, a kindergartner at the church school. He wound up pinned under a front tire of Bronstein’s car.
Also killed were Samuel’s mother, 36-year-old Martha Gaza, and Mary Wilson, 81, and Saeko Matsumura, 87, all of Torrance.
Police said a total of 11 pedestrians were struck, although the criminal complaint names a total of nine victims.
At a Jan. 27 hearing in which Bronstein was ordered to stand trial, Redondo Beach police Officer Joseph Rangel said Bronstein acknowledged after the crash that she had taken two pills that afternoon — the pain medication Norco and the muscle relaxant Soma — with a small amount of bread and some water as she had the day before.
Bronstein told police that she had taken the prescription drugs for about five years and didn’t feel side effects from them that night, according to the officer.
The officer said Bronstein had red eyes and slow responses and “appeared to be very confused” and sleepy, and that he formed the opinion that she was “impaired while driving.”
The officer testified that he was not able to give Bronstein a field sobriety test because she said she had birth defects to both legs, but said she subsequently had a blood test done. Bronstein made her first court appearance on a gurney and has been in a wheelchair for subsequent court hearings.
Bronstein, who is jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail, is due back in Los Angeles Superior Court April 7 for a pretrial hearing.
She faces up to 40 years in state prison if convicted, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
— City News Service