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Venice boardwalk driver's murder sentencing delayed, but 3 victims speak out in court

Venice boardwalk driver's murder sentencing delayed, but 3 victims speak out in court
Nathan Louis Campbell, pictured in May, is to be sentenced in September. (Ifran Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Nancy Martinez shuffled slowly toward the witness stand, a cane in her right hand aiding her way. The 28-year-old spoke softly into a microphone in a Los Angeles courtroom, describing how a date on Venice Beach two years ago forever changed her life.

It was during a leisurely stroll with her boyfriend down the boardwalk that Nathan Louis Campbell came barreling behind her in his car, plowing through the crowded walkway and striking the couple from behind.

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Campbell drove on, bulldozing pedestrians and eventually killing an Italian newlywed and injuring 17 people. Martinez was left with a shattered vertebrae.

She told the court on Wednesday that she could barely walk, let alone run or dance, as she loved to do before that day.

"If only I could understand why," she said in Spanish. "There is no logical reason why someone would drive that fast and try to kill people."

Campbell was found guilty in June of second-degree murder in the death of Alice Gruppioni, the Italian tourist visiting California with her husband on their honeymoon. Campbell also was found guilty on several counts of assault with a deadly weapon and hit-and-run charges.

He faces a possible life sentence in prison. Campbell was scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday, but the hearing was postponed.

Nonetheless, Martinez was one of three victims who addressed the court, describing how the crime changed their lives.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Victor Avila previously described Campbell as frustrated, angry and intent on inflicting pain on others in the Aug. 3, 2013, incident.

Upset after a botched effort to buy drugs, Campbell got into his Dodge Avenger and decided to jump a curb, maneuver past barriers meant to block vehicle access and plow through the packed boardwalk, the prosecutor said.

On Wednesday, Campbell fidgeted in orange jail scrubs as he listened to Martinez's boyfriend, Jose Gutierrez, 36, tell the court that he can no longer hold a job and often wakes up unable to lift himself from bed.

"It's really hard for me to keep going forward, but I have to," he said. "I can't go on like this."

Judy Fox said that what began as a pleasurable weekend walk with family turned to horror when she saw Campbell's car speeding toward her. She wept as she told the court that she is now terrified of large crowds, cars and crosswalks.

"I'm left with my heart pounding, racing, nervousness, sweating, sometimes a ringing in my ears," she said. "I'll always ask why? Why would someone rob so many people of so much?"

Campbell is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 25.

Avila says he expects additional victims to speak before sentencing, including members of the Gruppioni family.

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Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathryn Solorzano also denied a motion for new trial filed by Campbell's defense attorney James Cooper.

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