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Driver charged in fatal farmers' market crash

Police believe man, 87, hit gas instead of brake

George Russell Weller has been charged in the deaths of 10 people in a July farmer's market crash.
George Russell Weller has been charged in the deaths of 10 people in a July farmer's market crash.

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Santa Monica, California

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- The Los Angeles district attorney's office filed charges of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence Monday against the driver of a car that struck and killed 10 people and injured 63 others at a farmers' market in Santa Monica last summer.

Attorneys for George Russell Weller, 87, have been notified to surrender their client to authorities at 10:30 a.m. (1:30 p.m. ET) Tuesday, according to a statement from the district attorney's office. Bail was recommended at $50,000.

If convicted of all 10 counts, Weller faces a possible sentence ranging from probation to 18 years in state prison, the statement said.

The victims were all shopping July 16, 2003, at the market on Arizona Avenue in Santa Monica when the crash occurred.

Santa Monica Police Chief James Butts Jr. said at a news conference in December that after a five-month investigation, authorities believe that Weller hit the gas pedal instead of the brake of his 1992 Buick LeSabre after a minor fender-bender at a nearby intersection, just before his vehicle careered three blocks through the crowded pedestrian market.

The only reason his car eventually stopped, Butts said, was because a body trapped beneath the vehicle slowed it down.

"Mr. Weller was conscious throughout the collision sequence; no evidence exists that Mr. Weller attempted to take the car out of gear; there is no indication of braking throughout the entire collision sequence," Butts said.

Weller is charged in the deaths of Theresa Bregalia, 50, of the Bronx, New York; Brendon Esfahani, 7 months, Molok Ghoulian, 62, and Cindy Valladares, 3, all of Los Angeles; Gloria Gonzalez, 35, of Venice; Movsha Hoffman, 78, of Santa Monica; Leroy Lattier, 55, a transient; Diana McCarthy, 41, and Kevin McCarthy, 50, both of New York; and Lynne Ann Weaver, 47, of Woodland Hills.


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