LOCAL L.A. Now

Venice Boardwalk crash: Victim's family seeks justice as hearing begins

The aunt of the Italian newlywed killed in a hit-and-run on the crowded Venice boardwalk said she plans to attend the preliminary hearing for the case Tuesday to demand justice on behalf of her family.

Nathan Louis Campbell drove his 2008 Dodge Avenger onto the boardwalk shortly after 6 p.m. on Aug. 3 and began trying to hit pedestrians with his car, authorities said. Alice Gruppioni, 32, an Italian tourist who was in Los Angeles on her honeymoon, was struck and killed.

Campbell faces 16 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 17 counts of hit-and-run, as well as one count of murder in Gruppioni's death. A preliminary hearing is scheduled to begin Tuesday to determine whether there is enough evidence for Campbell to stand trial on the charges.

Katia Gruppioni told The Times her family gets up every morning hoping to awaken from a nightmare. 

"Every day her mother used to tell me ‘I open my eyes and hope I’m still dreaming,’ but she’s not,” she said. 

Katia Gruppioni traveled more than 6,000 miles from Bologna to witness the preliminary hearing and said she is the only member of the family who can currently endure the “additional emotional burden” of being at the hearing in person. Other relatives plan to travel to the United States if the trial advances. 

"We want to know what happened. We want to know why,” Gruppioni said. “We want to know that justice will be made somehow.”

Alice Gruppioni had married Christian Casadei weeks before her death and was living out her “dream honeymoon,” her aunt said. Katia Gruppioni described her niece as a “sweet, yet tough” person, an extremely hard worker who had been designated to take over her family’s business.

She was the daughter of Valerio Gruppioni, the former president of Italian soccer team Bologna FC, and the head of Sira Group, an Italian company that makes heating radiators and castings for aluminum products.

After the crash, Campbell abandoned his car and turned himself in to Santa Monica police. Sources told The Times that Campbell made statements to police implicating himself in the hit-and-run.

Court records from other states indicate that Campbell had minor crimes on his record including shoplifting, trespassing and reckless driving with alcohol, The Times reported.

Since Gruppioni's death, Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin has asked the city to examine ways to control vehicle access to the Venice Beach Boardwalk.

"Local police officers report an average of more than 15 motorists per day drive on Ocean Front Walk, putting lives at risk and causing accidents,” Bonin wrote in a motion to the council.

Gregory L. Bentley, an attorney representing the Gruppioni family, said “The family is looking for answers as to why vehicles are allowed” on the boardwalk.

Bentley said vehicles on the boardwalk put lives at risk.

"That's simply not acceptable,” he said.

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Twitter: @James_Barragan

james.barragan@latimes.com

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