Nancy Iskander was crossing the street with her children when she heard the roar of engines. Two SUVs were barreling toward the crosswalk.
Iskander put up her right hand in a desperate effort to stop the vehicles hurtling toward her family, grabbed her 5-year-old and dove to safety, she told a hushed Van Nuys courtroom Monday.
But the next time she saw her two older boys, they were near lifeless on Triunfo Canyon Road in Westlake Village, struck by one of the speeding sport utility vehicles, she said at a preliminary hearing in the murder case against Rebecca Grossman.
“They didn’t stop before the intersection. They didn’t stop at the intersection. They didn’t stop when an 11-year-old was on the hood of the car…. Nobody stopped,” Iskander, the mother of 8-year-old Jacob and 11-year-old Mark, said at the hearing.
Iskander was the first witness in the court proceedings where Judge Shellie Samuels will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to have Grossman, co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation and a Hidden Hills socialite, stand trial in the deaths of Jacob and Mark.
Grossman, 58, is charged with two counts of murder, two counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, and one count of hit-and-run driving resulting in death in connection with the Sept. 29, 2020, crash. She is accused of going as fast as 81 mph on the residential strip and was going more than 70 mph at the moment of the fatal crash, prosecutors have said.
Grossman faces 34 years to life in prison if convicted. She has pleaded not guilty and is out on $2 million bail.
In Monday’s hearing, Iskander described Jacob lying near the curb, and down the road, her son Mark with his “arm broken” and “blood coming out his mouth. I see him every night.”
Iskander, sometimes crying and other times staring intensely at Grossman, said she sees those moments in her nightmares day after day.
The case has torn into the fabric of the tony suburbs that stretch from Hidden Hills to Westlake Village.
In the courtroom, some members of the Westlake Village community wore T-shirts decrying “Justice Delayed” for the 19 months that have passed since the boys’ deaths.
Before entering the court, a Westlake Village pastor for Nancy and Karim Iskander gathered the crowd in a prayer huddle wrapped around the boys’ mother. “We are here for the family. We are here for justice,” said Chamie Delkeskamp, a pastor at Ascension Lutheran Church, whose school the boys attended.
On the day of the crash, the boys were walking with their family about 7:10 p.m. and crossing a three-way intersection with a marked crosswalk but no stoplight. Nancy Iskander testified Monday that neither Grossman’s white Mercedes-Benz nor former Dodger Scott Erickson’s black SUV stopped and that Mark was carried a considerable distance down the road by Grossman’s car before she stopped.
“I heard the noise and looked, felt and saw the car speeding,” Iskander said. “I realized something happened to Mark and Jacob.”
She testified that her 5-year-old son Zachary watched paramedics perform CPR on his brother Jacob. Mark died at the scene, and Jacob would die hours later at the hospital.
Iskander said she was on rollerblades along with Jacob, Zachary was on his scooter and Mark was on his skateboard, crossing the residential boulevard. Her husband and daughter were jogging nearby when her life was torn apart so fast she cannot recall every frame, she said.
Shown the splintered and shattered skateboard of her son Mark, she wept profusely. “It haunts me every night,” she said.
Iskander said she could not say whether she saw Grossman’s car hit her children because she was diving with her 5-year-old out of the way of the black car driven by Erickson, which passed first.
“The speed was insane,” she said of the two SUVs. “They were zigzagging with each other as if they were playing or racing.”
During a vigorous cross-examination that again brought her to tears, Iskander fired back, often quickly rebutting questions asking her to get into the details of what she saw. “Do you have kids, sir? Can you try to imagine?” she asked Alan Eisner, one of Grossman’s legal team questioning her.
“The car never stopped when the boys were hit or in the aftermath,” she said.
“One minute he was skating; the next minute he was lying there,” she said, pausing and adding, “I will say it — dead.”
Eisner and colleague Dmitry Gorin attempted to shift the blame from Grossman repeatedly.
To get a second-degree murder conviction, Deputy Dist. Atty. Ryan Gould must prove Grossman acted with implied malice and knew the act of driving at a speed of more than 70 mph in a residential area was dangerous to human life.
Usually, such cases are brought if the driver who kills is under the influence and has a prior driving-under-the-influence conviction with subsequent DUI education classes. In this case, Grossman has two prior speeding tickets on a nearby freeway a decade ago and that same year on Kanan Road in Malibu.
Eisner repeatedly attempted to get Iskander to say that Erickson’s car trapped her two boys in a way that put them in front of Grossman’s Mercedes. After Erickson was charged with misdemeanor reckless driving in connection with the incident, the mother opposed his effort to have the charge diverted from the criminal justice system, saying in a letter that he was partly to blame for the deadly events.
Erickson has denied any wrongdoing or reckless behavior in connection with the incident. “He didn’t witness the accident or have any part in causing it or play any role in it,” his attorney Mark Werksman said last year.
Another retired baseball star, Royce Clayton, now a coach at the Oaks Christian School, testified he drank a margarita with Grossman and Erickson at Julio’s in Westlake Village shortly before the crash. He recalled Grossman drinking a margarita or part of one and said she was not impaired. A blood-alcohol test for Grossman at the hospital after the fatal incident showed she was not above California’s limit for driving.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Cash testified about Grossman’s speeding history, saying he caught her in May 2020 going 72 mph in a 55 mph zone on Kanan Road.