A judge Wednesday rejected a defense motion seeking the dismissal of murder charges against the co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation, who allegedly ran down two young brothers in a Westlake Village crosswalk and fled the scene.
Rebecca Grossman, now 59, was ordered May 5 to stand trial on murder and other charges stemming from the September 2020 deaths of 11-year-old Mark Iskander and his 8-year-old brother, Jacob.
At that hearing in May, Superior Court Judge Shellie Samuels said, “I cannot with a clear conscience dismiss the murder charges.” The judge said then that she believed that the actions of the Hidden Hills woman “went well beyond gross negligence.”
The case was subsequently sent to Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino, who denied the defense’s renewed motion Wednesday seeking to have the murder charges dismissed.
“… He found that for purposes of the very low standard of a preliminary hearing he felt there was enough evidence,” one of Grossman’s attorneys, John Hobson, told KNX outside the Van Nuys courtroom. “But he didn’t feel there would be enough evidence going forward to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt on the murder charges. … The judge, I think, was thoughtful and deliberate about it and I think really he felt he was handcuffed by the low standard of the preliminary hearing.”
In his court filing opposing the defense’s motion, Deputy District Attorney Ryan Gould wrote that “the defendant clearly drove in a reckless and dangerous manner.”
Data from the “black box” in Grossman’s white SUV indicated she was traveling at 73 mph five seconds before the collision, up to 81 mph at two seconds before the collision and then 73 mph at the time of the collision, according to the prosecutor’s filing.
Grossman was charged in December 2020 with two felony counts each of murder and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, along with one felony count of hit-and-run driving resulting in death.
Prosecutors allege that Grossman drove at excessive speeds on Triunfo Canyon Road and struck the two boys as they were crossing the street with their parents in a marked crosswalk Sept. 29, 2020.
Sheriff’s officials said six family members were crossing the three-way intersection — which does not have a stoplight — in the crosswalk when the mother heard a car speeding toward them and both parents reached out to protect two of their children, but the two boys were too far out in the intersection and were struck.
The older boy died at the scene and his 8-year-old sibling died at a hospital.
Grossman allegedly continued driving after striking the boys, eventually stopping about a quarter-mile away from the scene when her car engine stopped running, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
In a conversation with an operator through a Mercedes-Benz service following the crash, Grossman said she didn’t know if she had hit anyone and that she was driving down the road when her airbag exploded.
“I don’t know what I hit,” Grossman said in the recording when a 911 operator was patched in and asked if she had hit a person.
At the hearing in May, the prosecutor said Grossman had received two speeding tickets — including one in May 2020 and another in March 2013. The CHP officer who made the 2013 traffic stop told investigators that radar indicated Grossman had been driving approximately 92 mph on the 101 Freeway, and that he warned the woman that traveling at such a speed could kill or injure someone, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Detective Scott Shean testified at that hearing.
The CHP officer said he remembered the stop because the woman told him he’d better hope he never needs to go to the Grossman Burn Center, according to Shean, adding that the CHP officer said he thought he’d be denied services at the facility if he ever needed them.
The sheriff’s detective testified that a blood-alcohol sample taken from Grossman after she struck the boys showed that her blood-alcohol level was 0.08% — the amount considered unlawful. Testing done by the Orange County crime lab showed a lower amount below the legal limit, according to a witness called by the defense.
Of the deadly crash, Hobson said in May, “The evidence supports that we have a tragic accident at this twilight time.” He said Grossman repeatedly expressed concern about the children once she learned they had been struck.
Grossman was arrested by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies the day of the crash and subsequently released Oct. 1, 2020, on bond.
She was given permission earlier this year to drive after having been barred from driving for more than a year.
Grossman could face a maximum of 34 years to life in prison if convicted as charged, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
The defendant is the wife of Dr. Peter Grossman, who is the director of the Grossman Burn Center in West Hills and son of the center’s late founder, A. Richard Grossman. Rebecca Grossman is co-founder and chairwoman of the Grossman Burn Foundation and the former publisher of Westlake Magazine.