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Man pleads not guilty to driving into crowd at Venice Beach, killing 1

By Stan Wilson, CNN
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Wed August 7, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Driver did not intentionally hit anyone, lawyer says
  • Suspect enters not guilty plea; bail is set at $1.48 million
  • Incident occurred at famed Venice Beach Boardwalk
  • Family of killed woman releases statement

Los Angeles (CNN) -- A motorist pleaded not guilty Tuesday to one count of murder and multiple other charges, three days after he allegedly drove his car into pedestrians at the famed Venice Beach Boardwalk in California, killing an Italian honeymooner.

Nathan Louis Campbell, 38, is charged with murder, 16 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 17 counts of hit-and-run, said Deputy District Attorney Gary Hearnsberger.

The charges include the special allegation of use of a deadly weapon, a car. Campbell, who was being held on $1.48 million bail, could face a life sentence if convicted.

Campbell, wearing a blue jail jumpsuit at his arraignment, was handcuffed at the waist and wrists.

When asked whether he wanted to waive his right to a speedy trial, Campbell answered, "Yes, sir" during the brief appearance.

Police: Driver 'bent on doing evil'

His court-appointed attorney, Philip Dube, said his client was "very distraught" over the incident, but did not deliberately strike anyone.

"I don't believe he intentionally tried to hit anybody, based on my cursory review of the case and my discussions with the D.A.," said Dube.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Keith L. Schwartz set the next hearing for September 4. He and attorneys will discuss scheduling a preliminary hearing.

Campbell is accused of driving his 2008 Dodge Avenger onto the boardwalk, killing 32-year-old Alice Gruppioni of Italy. She suffered blunt trauma to the head and neck, according to Los Angeles County coroner spokesman Ed Winter.

Eight women and eight men were hurt Saturday, authorities said.

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"It was horrible. I mean it was like something out of a movie, something you would never expect to see," witness Katherine Blackburn told CNN affiliate KABC.

The city boardwalk is a popular tourist attraction on the west side of Los Angeles, and is lined with hundreds of street vendors and performers.

15 injured at Venice Beach out of hospital

Police said Campbell abandoned the vehicle a few miles from the Venice Beach incident and turned himself into Santa Monica police about two hours later.

In a statement, Gruppioni's family expressed thanks for prayers from "so many around the world."

"No words can adequately express the grief and sorrow we are feeling as we mourn the loss of a beautiful person, family member and young bride," the family said. "Thank you all for your concerns as we begin to search for answers."

New details emerged Tuesday about Campbell, who once worked at a residential substance abuse center in Denver, Colorado.

Campbell was a chef and house manager at the Phoenix Concept from April 2010 to February 2012, said David Hall, program director for the Sobriety House Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center.

Campbell returned in December 2012 and worked until June before leaving, said Hall who declined to state the reason for his departure.

"While he was here he was a good employee and never had any issues that raised concern," said Hall.

According to its website, the Phoenix Concept merged with Sobriety House in October 2007. It is a 30-bed facility for men challenged by addictions.

CNN's Erica Henry contributed to this report.

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