Liquor, Valium, speed and recklessness: The D.A.'s case against Rebecca Grossman

VAN NUYS, CA - JANUARY 23: Rebecca Grossman, right, tightly holding on to her husband Peter Grossman heads into Van Nuys Courthouse West on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024 in Van Nuys, CA. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Rebecca Grossman walks into court Jan. 23 with her husband, Dr. Peter Grossman, at Van Nuys Courthouse. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

It was a September evening in 2020 when Nancy Iskander and her three sons approached a marked crosswalk in their upscale suburban L.A. neighborhood.

As Iskander would later testify, she saw a black sport utility vehicle speeding toward the Westlake Village intersection as the family crossed. She grabbed her 5-year-old, Zachary, pulling him to safety, as a black Mercedes SUV barreled past.

But another SUV — a white Mercedes — was following closely behind, Iskander said. Her older sons — 11-year-old Mark and 8-year-old Jacob — were farther into the intersection, and Iskander said she lost sight of them when she jumped out of the way.

In a matter of seconds, two of her four children were gone. She found Jacob near the curb, his heart still beating, but lying still, like he was sleeping, she said. Authorities say he was thrown about 50 feet in the collision. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead a few hours later. Mark's body was 254 feet away, “every bone in his body ... broken,” Iskander testified.

A sign shows an image of Mark Iskander, 11, left, and his brother Jacob Iskander, 8, outside Van Nuys Courthouse in 2022.
A sign shows an image of Mark Iskander, 11, left, and his brother Jacob Iskander, 8, outside Van Nuys Courthouse in 2022. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

A jury in Van Nuys is now hearing evidence in the case against Rebecca Grossman, the driver of the white Mercedes, who has been criminally charged in the deaths of the Iskander brothers.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has presented its case, and the defense will begin this week.

Here is a review of the murder trial against the Hidden Hills socialite from the pages of The Times:

Rebecca Grossman, co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation
Rebecca Grossman, co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Who is Rebecca Grossman?

Los Angeles County prosecutors say Grossman was behind the wheel of the white Mercedes GLE 43 AMG the night of Sept. 29, 2020. Authorities say she was driving as fast as 81 mph and traveled a third of a mile after slamming into the children before her car shut down.

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.

She is a well-known figure in the local community. Grossman founded the Grossman Burn Foundation with her husband, Dr. Peter Grossman, whose family created the eponymous renowned medical facility.

Read more: 'Where is Scott Erickson?' Defense in Grossman murder trial seeks to pin blame on ex-Dodger

Who is Scott Erickson?

Scott Erickson, a former pitcher for the Dodgers, was behind the wheel of the black SUV that sped through the intersection the night the Iskander boys were killed.

Prior to the crash, Grossman and Erickson had been drinking cocktails at a nearby restaurant, Julio’s Agave Grill, according to witnesses. Grossman was separated from her husband, Peter, at the time, and she and Erickson, 56, were having a romantic relationship.

Joining them was another retired baseball player, Royce Clayton, who testified that Erickson drank two margaritas and Grossman one. They all agreed to meet afterward at Grossman’s home and watch a presidential debate, he told the jury.

Clayton, now the baseball coach at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, testified that he never went to Grossman’s home because 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 All-Star 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.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Scott Erickson is seen in 2005.
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Scott Erickson is seen in 2005. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Defense attorney Tony Buzbee claims Erickson is responsible for the fatalities because his vehicle struck the boys first — a claim prosecutors say is untrue.

Nancy Iskander has testified that Erickson’s black SUV never hit her sons — but it could have killed her and her youngest son if she hadn’t dived out of the way and pulled him to safety in the bike lane.

“I know she killed them,” Iskander testified earlier this month, saying she has no doubt it was the white SUV she now knows was driven by Grossman that fatally struck her two sons.

Three eyewitnesses to the deadly crash testified that they saw one but not both boys hit by the white SUV or a light-colored vehicle.

Another expert witness testified that Erickson denied hitting anyone that night but did see the boys and a reflective scooter, which Iskander had said Zachary was riding.

Erickson was initially charged with misdemeanor reckless driving after the crash, but that was dismissed after he made a public service announcement about the importance of safe driving.

His lawyer, Mark Werksman, said he does not 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.”

Read more: Boy's body bore the imprint of Mercedes front grille, medical examiner says at Grossman trial

What have the prosecutors presented?

Two women place flowers at a memorial for Mark and Jacob Iskander in Westlake Village in September 2020.
Two women place flowers at a memorial for Mark and Jacob Iskander in Westlake Village in September 2020. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

What do we expect from the defense?

Grossman's defense team is expected to present its case beginning Tuesday and Buzbee has already given a strong indication of his plans.

Buzbee told jurors in opening statements he would prove that Erickson hid in nearby bushes after the crash and watched as Grossman was taken into custody.

Alexis Grossman, the defendant's daughter, is expected to testify that she came to the scene, where she saw her mother's car and Erickson, a one-time World Series winner, lurking nearby and watching investigators. She also is expected to reveal comments he made to her.

The defense is expected to further a previous allegation that Erickson was not driving a black 2007 Mercedes SUV that night, as he reported to authorities. Buzbee alleged in his opening statement that Erickson was actually driving a black 2016 Mercedes GL63 AMG, a powerful V-8 version of the SUV. Investigators and experts have already conceded on the witness stand that deputies did not examine his vehicle.

Witnesses are likely to be called to testify about photos of the newer vehicle and whether it was seen in the immediate aftermath of the fatal crash.

Significant failures in gathering broken car parts from Triunfo Canyon Road and procedural failures by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department are also expected to be the subject of testimony.

Buzbee will put on witnesses seeking to undermine the "black box" of Grossman's SUV — its event data recorder — which, according to investigators showed she hit speeds of 81 mph and was traveling 73 mph at the time of impact in the crosswalk. During the prosecution's presentation, Buzbee repeatedly suggested Grossman was going far slower and Erickson was in the faster vehicle.

Similarly, the defense will seek to undermine suggestions that a positive test for Valium and a blood alcohol level of at or slightly below 0.08% — California’s legal limit — would leave a driver impaired.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.