Rebecca Grossman trial: Tearful mom describes horror of crash that killed 2 sons
Nancy Iskander sobbed at the memory, her voice quivering.
The mother of four recounted how she saw a black sport utility vehicle speeding toward the intersection where she and her three sons were crossing. She grabbed her 5-year-old, Zachary, pulling him to safety, as that SUV barreled through the marked crosswalk in Westlake. The high-powered vehicle flew past.
But another SUV — a white Mercedes — was following closely behind, Iskander said. Her older sons were farther into the intersection, and Iskander said she lost sight of them when she jumped out of the way.
“I saw two cars coming toward us at an insane, crazy speed,” Iskander testified Monday in the murder trial of Rebecca Grossman, who is charged in the deaths of the Iskander children, 11-year-old Mark and 8-year-old Jacob. “I didn’t see her hit the boys. I saw her pass where the boys were, and I heard the crash.”
Los Angeles County prosecutors say Grossman was behind the wheel of the white Mercedes that fatally struck the brothers in September 2020. Authorities say she was driving as fast as 81 mph and traveled a quarter-mile after slamming into the children before her car shut down.
“I heard the loud noise, and I heard the driver of that car kept going,” Iskander told jurors. “I started screaming, ‘I can’t find them.’
“Nobody came back to help,” Iskander said. “She did not come back to the scene.”
As the first witness in Grossman’s trial, Iskander gave a firsthand account of how a plan for exercise at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown ended in tragedy on bucolic Triunfo Canyon Road on Sept. 29, 2020.
She described finding Jacob near the curb. Authorities say he was thrown about 50 feet in the collision. She said it looked like he was sleeping, and she put her ear to his chest and heard his heart beating. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead a few hours later, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said in a release.
Mark was 254 feet away — a distance a deputy who specializes in crash incidents previously testified was the farthest he has known a human to be tossed in a crash. His body was crumpled, and he had blood pouring out of his nose, his mother recounted. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
“Every bone in his body was broken,” she testified.
Grossman, 60, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and one count of hit-and-run driving resulting in death. If convicted of all charges, she faces 34 years to life in prison.
Defense lawyers have argued that Grossman’s erstwhile boyfriend, former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Scott Erickson, is responsible for the fatalities because his vehicle struck the boys first.
Grossman and Erickson had earlier in the day been drinking cocktails at a nearby restaurant, Julio’s Agave Grill, according to court records. The couple were joined by retired baseball player Royce Clayton, who testified Monday that Erickson drank two margaritas and Grossman one. Afterward, he said, they all agreed to meet at Grossman’s home and watch a presidential debate. He said Grossman did not seem to be impaired when she left the now-shuttered eatery.
Mikaela Kennedy, who worked at Julio’s, told the court that Grossman was served a Casamigos margarita at the restaurant. She, too, said the Hidden Hills socialite did not appear to be impaired when she left the restaurant.
But prosecutors say Grossman was racing Erickson’s high-powered black Mercedes SUV down the 45-mph street and her actions prove implied malice, knowing that her behavior was reckless. Although Grossman was not charged with driving under the influence, her blood alcohol level three hours after the crash registered 0.08%, California’s legal limit. She also had Valium in her system at the time of the fatal incident, prosecutors allege.
Iskander described how Erickson’s black SUV flew toward her and Zachary, who was on his scooter. She said if she hadn’t grabbed Zachary and jumped out of the way, they would have been killed by the black car. But she said she had no doubts that the white SUV struck and killed her two older boys.
Tony Buzbee, Grossman’s lead attorney, told jurors during his opening statements Friday that “she did not do anything, but someone else did,” adding that authorities never examined Erickson’s vehicle after the deadly incident.
Iskander on Monday pushed back against the defense’s argument that Erickson first struck Mark and Jacob, sending one of the boys upward into the air before falling into Grossman’s path and bouncing off her car.
“I wouldn’t have missed that, Mark going up in the sky,” the distraught mother said.
Buzbee has said that Erickson, 55, lied to sheriff’s investigators about the vehicle he was driving that night, noting that he “stopped down the road and hid in the bushes and watched” as police investigated the crash before going to Grossman’s house, speaking with her daughter and then going home.
Clayton, who was also supposed to go to Grossman’s house that night, never made it. The baseball coach at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village testified that he learned of the crash after speaking with Erickson by phone a few hours later. When asked whether he was still friends with Erickson, who has denied any wrongdoing, the former Giants shortstop said, “No.”
“I have kids. I just don’t understand how he could be so negligent and be responsible for running down kids,” Clayton said.
Erickson had a misdemeanor charge against him dismissed after making a public service announcement for teens about the importance of safe driving. His lawyer, Mark Werksman, said he does not currently plan to address the issues being raised in the Grossman trial, but added “this may change over the course of the coming days [or] weeks.”
In trying to establish the sequence of events, Buzbee repeatedly asked Iskander what she saw, arguing about how dark it was at the time of the crash, which occurred around 7:10 p.m.
“You did not see the children killed?” the lawyer asked.
“It was too fast,” she replied, but she noted: “If someone else did it, I would have said it.”
Westlake Village cyclist Chris Morgeson told jurors he heard three cars on Lindero Canyon coming up fast, two dark-colored sedans and a white SUV that he considered was driving “reckless.” He said he later saw a similar SUV with front-end damage stopped on the side of Triunfo Canyon Road. He said he never saw a black SUV and he couldn’t describe the driver of the white SUV.
But Iskander testified that she recalled only two vehicles that night. She said her older sons were an arm’s length or a little more away and inside the marked crosswalk, not cutting in front as Buzbee suggested in his opening statements Friday.
“She killed my kids,” Iskander said of Grossman. “They aren’t at school. They are not playing sports. They are at the cemetery.”