Rebecca Grossman's doctor husband defends wife accused of killing 2 children

Peter Grossman exits Van Nuys Courthouse West on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024 in Van Nuys, CA.
Peter Grossman exits Van Nuys Courthouse on Jan. 23. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The husband of Rebecca Grossman testified Tuesday that he has ridden in the car with her hundreds of times and could not ever recall her speeding, despite testimony during her murder trial that shows she was traveling 81 mph in a 45-mph zone when two children were struck and killed on a residential street.

Dr. Peter Grossman, the head of the Grossman Burn Center, was the first witness to take the stand for the defense, but prosecutors immediately aimed to focus his attention on his wife's driving habits.

Rebecca Grossman is accused of racing her high-powered Mercedes SUV on a quiet Westlake Village street, driving behind her then-lover as the two sped home after drinking cocktails at a nearby restaurant on Sept. 29, 2020. Investigators say she barely braked before fatally striking Mark and Jacob Iskander, who were in a marked crosswalk.

She 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 in connection with the fatal collision.

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

Peter Grossman explained that he and his wife were separated at the time of the crash. He testified that the couple had been married for 20 years and were cohabiting "under the same roof" but were living separate lives then and dating other people. Rebecca Grossman was romantically involved with former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Scott Erickson in 2020, her husband said from the witness stand.

Lead defense attorney Tony Buzbee has repeatedly told jurors that Erickson is responsible for the deaths of the Iskander brothers. He has suggested that the retired baseball player's high-powered black Mercedes sped through the intersection first, hitting Jacob and tossing him to the curb and slamming into Mark, whose body was thrown high into the air before landing in the path of Grossman's white Mercedes.

But witnesses for the prosecution say that had Grossman not been speeding, she would not have struck the boys at all. And a California Highway Patrol officer previously testified he ticketed her for driving 92 mph on the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills a decade ago.

Deputy. Dist. Atty. Jamie Castro on Tuesday asked Peter Grossman if he ever recalled his wife speeding while he was a passenger in her car, and the surgeon replied: "I don't have a recollection of that."

"Out of the hundreds of times you drove with her, you don't have a recollection of her driving over the speed limit?" Castro pressed.

"That is correct," the doctor said.

Castro earlier read into the court record, outside the jurors' presence, that Rebecca Grossman was ticketed for speeding four times between 2000 and 2020.

Prosecutors have also alleged that the "black box" — the event data recorder inside Rebecca Grossman's vehicle — tells a different tale. The last five seconds of Grossman’s travels the night of the crash were captured. The data show she was speeding up to 81 mph and tapped the brakes a second and a half — which dropped her speed to 73 mph — before a collision triggered her airbags.

However, David Notowitz, an audio and video expert who examined three security videos from a home and boathouse past the crosswalk where the boys were killed, said data show Grossman's Mercedes was traveling at a significantly slower speed. He said an examination of video that captured vehicles passing a short distance from the crosswalk shows Grossman driving 51.9 mph, while the black car in front of her — driven by Erickson — was going 72 mph.

Notowitz said he used the trees in the backdrop to measure the speed over distance. In a second video recorded farther down the road, past the crosswalk, he determined Grossman was going 52.7 mph, he testified.

Read more: 'I wish I had not looked away': Grossman's texts show she was distracted before crash

Still, Buzbee has repeatedly argued that Rebecca Grossman's vehicle was not the first to strike the boys. He told jurors during opening statements that Erickson lied to authorities the night of the crash when he told them he was driving a 2007 Mercedes SUV.

Peter Grossman testified he had never seen that vehicle outside the second home he shared with his wife when she and Erickson were dating. The doctor instead testified that he saw Erickson's 2016 Mercedes 63GL AMG outside the Grossmans' home in Westlake Village on many occasions. The Grossmans' primary home was in Hidden Hills.

Buzbee has argued that sheriff’s investigators never checked Erickson’s vehicle for damage and said that after the crash, he hid in the bushes near where Rebecca Grossman's disabled vehicle stopped and watched as investigators took her into custody.

Peter Grossman testified that after the collision, his wife was overcome with grief and badly bruised. The defense showed images of the socialite's heavily bruised arm, the left side of her face and her foot, which she told a friend in a text message was fractured.

"My wife was almost inconsolable — crying, trembling, incredibly emotional" after her release from a Lynwood jail 30 hours after the fatal crash, Grossman said.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.