Rebecca Grossman murder trial: LA deputy testifies debris from deadly crash was from white vehicle

City News Service
Thursday, February 1, 2024
Testimony continues in Rebecca Grossman murder trial
Testimony continues in the murder trial of socialite Rebecca Grossman, who is accused of hitting and killing two young brothers in a crash in Westlake Village.

VAN NUYS, LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- A Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy testified Wednesday in the murder trial of socialite Rebecca Grossman that he didn't find any evidence indicating that more than one vehicle was involved in a collision in Westlake Village that left two boys dead, saying he only saw debris from a white vehicle.

Deputy Rafael Mejia told the Van Nuys jury that he responded to the scene shortly after the Sept. 29, 2020, collision that left 11-year-old Mark Iskander and his 8-year-old brother Jacob dead, and said he was informed to look for a white vehicle with front-end damage.

Mejia said he found Grossman about three-tenths of a mile away standing outside her white Mercedes-Benz SUV, which had front-end damage.

RELATED: Mother of boys killed in Westlake Village crash testifies in Rebecca Grossman murder trial

In the Rebecca Grossman murder trial, a jury heard heart-wrenching testimony from the mother of two boys fatally struck as they crossed a street in Westlake Village.

"She told me that her vehicle was disabled by Mercedes-Benz," Mejia told jurors, saying that the airbags had gone off and that Grossman told him that she had hit something but she didn't know what she struck.

Grossman, the 60-year-old co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation, is charged 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.

The prosecution alleges that Grossman was speeding at the time she hit the boys. The older boy died at the scene and his 8-year-old sibling died at a hospital.

Grossman's attorneys insisted she was not the driver responsible for the deadly crash, which they contend occurred outside a crosswalk. The defense pointed the blame at former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Scott Erickson, whom they allege was driving a black Mercedes SUV just ahead of Grossman's white Mercedes SUV.

Erickson was described by a prosecutor as Grossman's boyfriend at the time.

Under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Jamie Castro, the sheriff's deputy said he didn't find any debris consistent with a black SUV or any kind of black vehicle.

"We didn't see any indicators there was another vehicle," Mejia said, indicating that the debris at the scene indicated a white vehicle had been involved.

The deputy said a Mercedes-Benz emblem was found among the debris at the scene of the collision, adding later on cross-examination that another Mercedes-Benz emblem was discovered. He noted that the auto chain has multiple emblems on their vehicles.

Of his interaction with Grossman, the deputy said, "She kept telling me to call her husband ... Her husband could help those kids."

He said he smelled "alcohol coming from her person," and contacted a unit to come to perform a DUI investigation.

The deputy said he saw a person who identified herself as Grossman's daughter and said she was there to pick up her mother. He said he told her that she couldn't go home with her. He said he never saw a man hiding in the bushes watching the police investigation, and would have considered that highly suspicious.

In his opening statement, lead defense attorney Tony Buzbee alleged that Erickson's vehicle went through the intersection 2 1/2 seconds before Grossman and hit the two children first. He told jurors that Erickson stopped up the road, hid in the bushes and watched after the collision.

Under cross-examination, the deputy said he wasn't aware that a black SUV had gone through the intersection mere seconds before Grossman.

He acknowledged that the first debris from the crash was found 50 feet away from the crosswalk, and said he relied in giving his estimate of the point of impact on the accounts of witnesses who indicated that the victims were in the crosswalk when they were hit. He noted that there was no fluid found in the crosswalk.

The deputy said he had considered the possibility that more than one vehicle was involved in the collision with the boys, but ruled it out saying that all of the debris was "consistent with a white vehicle." He said he believed the crash was caused by the vehicle "traveling at an unsafe speed," and added that he stands by that conclusion.

Jurors also heard an audiotape of Grossman's conversation with an operator with a Mercedes-Benz service in which the woman said she didn't know if she had hit anyone and said she was driving when her airbag "exploded."

"I don't know what I hit," she said in the recording when a 911 operator was patched in and asked if she had hit someone.

Jurors also saw videotaped footage of Grossman's subsequent encounter with sheriff's Deputy Michael Kelley, who was called to the scene to conduct field sobriety tests on her.

Kelley told the panel that Grossman told him she had one drink, and that he ultimately formed the opinion that she was under the influence of alcohol based on the totality of the testing she had undergone.

Grossman can repeatedly be heard in the video asking about "what's going on with these children," saying that she had been told that there were some children that had been hit and that she has children of her own. She also repeatedly mentioned her husband, Dr. Peter Grossman, the director of the Grossman Burn Centers, whom she said could help.

"I'm not intoxicated," she said while undergoing the tests.

After she was led in handcuffs to a patrol car and informed that she was under arrest in connection with the deadly collision, she yelled, "No!"

Under cross-examination, Kelley acknowledged that he would not have arrested Grossman on suspicion of DUI if she had performed the field sobriety tests to his satisfaction. He also agreed that a preliminary alcohol screening done on Grossman indicated that she was below the legal limit.

Deputy District Attorney Ryan Gould noted in his opening statement last week that blood testing done on Grossman after the crash determined she had alcohol and Valium in her system, but that she is not charged with driving under the influence. Jurors don't need to find her guilty of that in order to convict her of the charges, he said.

In testimony Tuesday, two prosecution witnesses testified that they saw a pair of Mercedes SUVs speeding before the white vehicle struck a young boy. One of those witnesses testified that she heard two impacts, which another prosecution witness said she had also heard.

Rebecca and Peter Grossman were separated at the time of the crash, according to a statement by her husband posted on a website supporting her.

She is a co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation and a former publisher of Westlake Magazine.

Grossman is free on $2 million bond. She could face up to 34 years to life in state prison if convicted as charged.