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Witnesses to fatal Venice Beach boardwalk crash recall chaos, horror

A woman who was hit when a man drove his car onto the Venice boardwalk in August testified at a preliminary hearing Tuesday, recalling the "mayhem" and horror of the hit-and-run that injured a dozen people and left an Italian honeymooner dead.

Katriye Marshall, 33, said she was visiting from Britain when Nathan Louis Campbell drove his 2008 Dodge Avenger onto the boardwalk and began hitting pedestrians with his car.

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 connection to the death of Alice Gruppioni, 32.

Marshall testified that she saw the car “plow into market stores” and then begin picking up speed as it headed toward her and her partner.

“At that point, I told Aaron, 'We need to run,'” she said. They tried to flee, but the driver followed them and the front of the car struck Marshall's legs, tossing her onto the ground. Marshall sustained bruises to both shins and cuts to her elbow.

After a man helped her up, Marshall said she heard people talking about someone lying nearby. She said she saw a woman covered with blood, lying immobile, face down.

Other witnesses -- all from out of state -- testified that they were confused when they first saw the car drive onto the boardwalk.

At one point, Marshall thought it was filming for a movie. Another witness said he initially thought it was some kind of entertainment. Then the car started heading his way.

“I quickly realized it wasn't a show,” said Mike Giantomaso of Pennsylvania, who was visiting the boardwalk with his wife and four children. “When I looked up, it was coming straight at us.”

Deputy Dist. Atty. Victor Avila showed video clips of the incident and its aftermath.

Some of the clips showed the car driving onto the boardwalk and slamming into a kiosk, causing nearby passersby to run in scattered directions. Another clip appeared to show items from the kiosk soaring in the air after the impact.

“There was everything everywhere,” Marshall said.

Several of the witnesses testified that they initially thought the driver had simply lost control of the car. None said they heard any honking or warnings from the driver as the car sped on the boardwalk.

Gruppioni's aunt, Katia Gruppioni, listened as the witnesses testified. She flew more than 6,000 miles from Bologna to attend the hearing.

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

At the end of the preliminary hearing, Los Angeles County Superior Court judge Antonio Barreto Jr. will decide whether there is enough evidence for Campbell to stand trial on the charges.

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james.barragan@latimes.com

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