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Venice crash: Italian newlywed died of blunt force trauma

The Italian newlywed killed after a car tore across a crowded Venice Beach boardwalk died of blunt force trauma to the head and neck, coroner's officials said Monday.

The autopsy on Alice Gruppioni, 32, was completed, and L.A. County coroner's spokesman Ed Winter said her death had been ruled a homicide. 

The tourist was on her honeymoon when the blue Dodge Avenger plowed along the boardwalk Saturday, striking pedestrians and vendors on the popular Ocean Front Walk. Eleven others, including Gruppioni's husband, Christian Casadei, were injured.

The suspect, identified as Nathan Louis Campbell, 38, turned himself in to Santa Monica police shortly after the incident. He was arrested on suspicion of murder and remained jailed Monday in lieu of $1-million bail.

Sources familiar with the investigation said Campbell made spontaneous statements to police at the time of his arrest, implicating himself in the hit-and-run.

Sources said Campbell had possibly been living in his car, purchased in Colorado about a month ago. Public records indicated Campbell had addresses in Florida, Georgia and Colorado.

Records also showed that Campbell had a history of arrests for minor crimes in both Denver and Florida, including a reckless driving citation involving alcohol in Panama City Beach. 

In Colorado, a Nathan L. Campbell with the same date of birth as the suspect was accused of shoplifting in February 2009 and spent five days in a Denver jail; he also was accused of trespassing in July 2009 and spent 10 days in jail.

He had also been accused of trespassing in 2008, Denver County court records show. Denver police confirmed the records and jail time.

Florida public records show that a Nathan Louis Campbell was arrested in April 2008 by Panama City Beach police and charged with reckless driving with alcohol. He was listed as a transient born in Georgia.

The man’s date of birth, height and other physical descriptors matched those of the suspect in the Venice hit-and-run. Panama City police indicated they had received calls about the reckless driving records.

Witnesses said Sunday the car appeared to reach speeds near 60 mph as it moved about a quarter-mile down the boardwalk. The driver seemed to go out of his way to hit pedestrians, they said.

Video taken from a restaurant on narrow Dudley Avenue shows a man believed to be Campbell pacing near a sedan, then getting into the car and driving suddenly forward, out of camera range.

Another video shows the moments that followed: the sedan slamming into pedestrians and ramming a canopy before turning left and speeding down Ocean Front Walk at an hour when many people were waiting to watch the setting sun.

The driver first tried to exit through a parking lot but struck a sunglasses stand, onlookers said. The car then backed up and exited at Park Avenue, a street with no blocking barriers, they said.

Officials said the motorist entered Ocean Front Walk by driving onto a sidewalk and maneuvering past five narrow concrete pylons, a barrier meant to block cars.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called Saturday’s rampage a tragedy, adding that he plans to get in touch with Gruppioni’s husband and family.

"This should have been the happiest moment of her life," Garcetti said.

The victim's family arrived in Southern California on Sunday night, NBC Los Angeles reported.

"She was robbed of her life while living her dream visit to California with her husband," Katia Gruppioni, her aunt, told NBC4 in a text message. "This was a tremendous injustice. Alice was a remarkable young lady making her personal dreams come true."


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