Venice Beach boardwalk crash: Victim's husband speaks out


"There isn't words that can explain what happened and what I feel. I want to come back to Italy with her," Christian Casadei said through tears.

Casadei and Alice Gruppioni just got married in Italy two weeks ago. They were in Los Angeles for their honeymoon when they were hit by a driver on the boardwalk Saturday.

A man in a dark-colored Dodge Avenger squeezed between a pylon barrier and a building and drove straight onto the popular Venice Beach boardwalk, driving fast and erratically. Surveillance footage from nearby businesses shows a chaotic scene as frightened people scattered in all directions to avoid the vehicle.

"It was insane what I saw. I didn't know what to think. I was shaking for like three hours," said witness Antonio Rendon. "I hear like a big explosion. When I turn around, I see these ATM machines flying in a thousand pieces."

Witnesses said it was clear the driver wanted to hurt as many people as possible.

"It was like a videogame. How many people can I hit? How many points can I get? It was that weird," said Shelly Gomez, who watched the episode unfold in disbelief.

Gruppioni, 32, died from blunt force trauma to the head and neck, the L.A. County Coroner announced Monday after performing an autopsy. Her death was ruled a homicide. Casadei was among the 11 people hurt, but his injuries were not life-threatening.

Of the 11 injured, one person was reported in critical condition, two were said to be in serious condition and eight others reported minor injuries. Officials say five of those injured have been released from area hospitals. Emergency officials said all patients were pedestrians along the boardwalk.

Gruppioni's family members have arrived in Los Angeles. They are making arrangements to take her body back to Italy for a funeral.

Relatives say the Gruppioni and Casadei shared a special love.

"It's a love you use to build a future together. This was one of the main treats about Alice, she was a builder. They together were building a beautiful and bright future," said the victim's aunt, Katia Gruppioni.

Alice Gruppioni managed a business in her home town and her father is the former president of the Bologna soccer team.

"Alice was a remarkable young lady making her personal dreams come true...Aside from being a concrete and business oriented person, she never ceased to be the romantic and dreaming girl fantasizing about her bridal gown and her meeting Prince Charming, which she actually did," said Katia Gruppioni. "She was robbed of her life while living her dream visit to California with her husband and this was a tremendous injustice."

Saturday, police arrested 38-year-old Nathan Campbell in connection to the crash. Campbell, described by police as a transient, was booked for investigation of murder and is being held on $1 million bail. He surrendered to police the night of the incident. He is expected in court on Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

Investigators did not release a motive. Toxicology results are pending to determine whether drugs or alcohol were factors.

Bay County sheriff's officials in Florida said Campbell was arrested in April 2008 for reckless driving with alcohol.

Investigators said Campbell spent time in jail in 2009 for shoplifting in Colorado, where he had lived as recently as last year.

A representative with Covenant House, a non-profit agency that helps homeless youth, confirmed to Eyewitness News that Campbell was an in-and-out resident at their Hollywood facility from April 1995 to August 1996.

Police are scouring local stores to attain more surveillance footage to aid the investigation.

The deadly crash has spurred an effort to install better barriers between cars and the boardwalk.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin said he is pushing for extra pillars and barricades on the boardwalk to prevent motorists from driving onto the oceanfront strip. He also believes there should be a loud-speaker system for public safety authorities, so they can make an announcement to warn people if there is a violent act or natural disasters.

The vigil was held at 6 p.m. Monday outside the Candle Café & Grill.

The owners of Candle Cafe & Grill set up fund for the victims of this tragedy.

You can send donations in care of "North Venice Beach Vendors" to:

Candle Café & Grill
325 Ocean Front Walk
Venice, CA 90291

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