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Suspect confessed in deadly Venice boardwalk crash, officer testifies

CrimeCrime, Law and JusticeHit and Run (vehicular)Highway and Road DisastersHomicideTransportation DisastersNathan Campbell

About two hours after a car sped onto the Venice boardwalk and barreled through the crowd, killing an Italian honeymooner, Santa Monica police say Nathan Campbell walked into their station and confessed.

“I’m the one you’re looking for,” Campbell allegedly told the front desk officer. “I hit all those people.”

Santa Monica police Officer Brent Wilkening recalled from the witness stand Wednesday in Campbell's preliminary hearing that Campbell said little besides the initial confession to him just before 8 p.m. on Aug. 3.

Campbell said he had parked his car about a mile away and walked to the police station, stopping by a liquor store along the way for a drink, Wilkening testified. Campbell mumbled and kept his head down, his shoulders slumped, while he talked with officers, Wilkening said.

Wearing an ill-fitting blue button down shirt, dark slacks and slippers, Campbell sat stoicly as Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Victor Avila argued it was Campbell who drove the 2008 Dodge Avenger onto the boardwalk about 6 p.m. that day.

The driver hit the crowd, killing Alice Gruppioni, 32. Witnesses testified the Avenger drove over the sidewalk to get onto the boardwalk, avoiding barriers meant to keep vehicles off the walkway.

Gruppioni and her husband Christian Casedei were the first ones hit that day, testified Jessie White, 31, a boardwalk transient.

“He hit them dead-on,” White said of the car’s driver. “He didn’t care, he just hopped in his car and gunned it down the boardwalk.”

White testified Campbell was not the driver and whoever was in the car was driving about 25 mph before accelerating to upwards of 50 mph as it took out tourists and a tarot card-reading stand. The vehicle continued until White could not longer see it.

Campbell was arrested after he confessed to Santa Monica police. He faces more than a dozen counts of felony hit-and-run and one count of murder in Gruppioni’s death.

[For the Record, 4:49 p.m. PST, Nov. 20: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated the car involved in the crash was a Dodge Charger. It was an Avenger.]

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joseph.serna@latimes.com

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