LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — A Colorado man accused of killing an Italian honeymooner and injuring 16 others was left “profoundly depressed” after he drove his car into the weekend masses at the Venice Beach boardwalk, said his lawyer, who called it “a horrible accident.”
“I don’t believe he intentionally tried to hit anybody,” said public defender Philip Dube, who is representing Nathan Louis Campbell, 38. “He’s profoundly sad, he is profoundly depressed, that he has potentially ended somebody’s life.”
Campbell pleaded not guilty Tuesday to one count of murder, 16 counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and 17 counts of hit-and-run.
A felony complaint said Campbell acted willfully, but it provided no explanation for why he allegedly maneuvered around a vehicle barrier early Saturday evening and plowed into tourists and vendors on the popular walkway along the Pacific.
Italian newlywed Alice Gruppioni, 32, who was on her honeymoon, was killed, and 16 others were injured. Coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter said an autopsy determined that the cause of Gruppioni’s death was blunt-force trauma to the head and neck, and it has been classified as a homicide.
Campbell appeared briefly in court, handcuffed in blue prison garb, with his graying hair disheveled. He sat with his hands folded in his lap and only said “I do” and “yes sir” while responding to questions.
Talking to reporters outside the courthouse, Dube said there was no indication that drugs or alcohol were involved, and he said he was unaware of any history of mental illness with his client.
“He is very fragile. He is very frail right now,” Dube said.
Campbell, who is being held on $1.48 million bail, has an arrest record that includes offenses in four different states since 2002.
Police said Campbell has been in California only a short time, and it’s not clear what brought him to Venice Beach on the summer weekend. Only a sketchy picture of him has emerged. He has no fixed address and no state driver’s license, and police have found no evidence he was working in the state.
Campbell has ties to Colorado, where he lived as recently as last year. He was evicted from his apartment in Denver for not paying $655 in rent in March 2012, records show.
He was sentenced to five days in jail after pleading guilty to shoplifting at a Denver supermarket in February 2009. Five months later, he was accused of trespassing at an outdoor mall in Denver and sentenced to 10 days in jail, but instead served time in a sheriff’s work program, said Melissa Drazen-Smith, assistant director of prosecutions at the Denver city attorney’s office.
All of his infractions occurred in businesses along a downtown walking mall, an area that is also a magnet for homeless people.
She said Campbell is listed in one record as being a temporary laborer.
Earlier Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council called for new street barriers to block vehicles from getting onto the boardwalk. A motion, approved unanimously, urged police and city officials to immediately erect temporary barriers at the most dangerous intersections along the boardwalk, which draws tens of thousands of visitors on weekends.
Gruppioni’s family arrived in Los Angeles Sunday. Through their attorney, Gregory L. Bentley of Shernoff Bidart Echeverria Bentley LLP, the family issued the following statement Tuesday:
“The family wishes to express our sincere gratitude for the thoughts and prayers from so many around the world. We appreciate the professional attention and kindness shown by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office while advising us this morning of the impending prosecution of Nathan Louis Campbell.
“We also wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to Consul General of Italy, Giuseppe Perrone, for assisting us in expediting arrangements to allow us to bring Alice home.
“No words can adequately express the grief and sorrow we are feeling as we mourn the loss of a beautiful person, family member and young bride. Thank you all for your concerns as we begin to search for answers.”
If convicted, Campbell could face life in prison. He is due back in court Sept. 4.
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