Man who killed Italian bride and injured others in Venice vehicle attack found guilty

By Gary Walker

A Colorado man could spend the rest of his life in a California prison after a Westchester jury on Friday found him guilty of second-degree murder in the death of a recently married Italian tourist who he plowed into with his ironically named car while driving along the crowded Venice Boardwalk.

Alice Gruppioni, 32, was on her honeymoon on Aug. 3, 2013 when Nathan Louis Campbell hit her with his Dodge Avenger. Campbell ended up causing injuries to more than a dozen other pedestrians who he hit with his car that Saturday. In addition to the second-degree murder charge, Campbell, 38, was convicted of 17 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 10 counts of leaving the scene of an accident.

The prosecution initially sought first-degree murder in the death of Gruppioni but withdrew that charge near the end of the trial, which began on April 30. The jury was given the case on June 2. The prosecution withdrew the first-degree charge near the end of the trial because the jurors appeared to be hung on that question.

Campbell could face life in prison when he is sentenced by Superior Court Judge Kathryn Solorzano on Aug. 5.

Because none of the prosecution’s witnesses were able to identify Campbell, Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila relied on forensic evidence, a surveillance video of the crash and eyewitness testimony — including that of Christian Casadei, Gruppioni’s husband, as well as Campbell’s own statement to Santa Monica police after he turned himself in hours after the fatal crash, reportedly asking, “How many people did I kill?”

One witness, Jesse White, claimed that he was approached prior to the collision by two men on the boardwalk seeking to buy crystal methamphetamine. After one of the men gave an acquaintance of White’s money to purchase the drugs but did not return with them, White testified that the younger man — who the prosecution contended was Campbell — became angry and told him, “You point them out to me and I’ll hit them with my [expletive] car.”

White said he later saw Campbell return in a Dodge Avenger and drive onto the boardwalk. Avila and Campbell’s attorney, James Cooper III of Westchester, addressed the jury earlier that morning on one of Solorzano’s instructions, which allowed jurors to consider Campbell’s alleged “expressed malice” in running down Gruppioni and other pedestrians.

Similar to his opening statement, Cooper sought to convince jurors that expressed malice should not be considered because his client did not mean to hit or kill anyone.

“The evidence showed that Mr. Campbell hit some mannequins and an ATM machine and then skidded after a hard right turn. If there was a plan to kill, you would have seen Mr. Campbell enter the boardwalk from an east to west direction and put the pedal to the medal and try to strike as many people as he could,” Cooper said. “There isn’t sufficient evidence that Mr. Campbell had any intent to kill when his car entered the boardwalk.”

“The natural probability of when you slam your car into the back of a woman is possible death,” Avila countered. He then urged jurors to consider Campbell’s conduct prior to driving onto the boardwalk.

“A cold, calculated decision to kill someone can be arrived at in seconds,” he told jurors, emphasizing that the defendant knew that he was driving onto a “fully loaded boardwalk with families and children.”

Casadei and Gruppioni’s family have filed a civil lawsuit against Los Angeles city officials.