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Rebecca Grossman gets 15 years to life for murder of boys killed in crosswalk

Rebecca Grossman, left, and her daughter, Alexis, walk into court in February.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
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A judge on Monday sentenced Rebecca Grossman to 15 years to life in prison for the murders of two brothers she struck while speeding through a Westlake Village crosswalk four years ago, saying her actions were “reckless and unquestionably negligent.”

After hearing Nancy Iskander, the mother of 11-year-old Mark Iskander and 8-year-old Jacob Iskander, angrily ask for the sentence to reflect the deaths of both her boys, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino sentenced the philanthropist to two concurrent terms, plus another concurrent three years for fleeing the scene of the fatal crash.

“She is a coward,” Iskander said of Grossman.

But Brandolino said Grossman is “not a monster as the prosecutors portrayed her to be.”

Appearing in court with her hair pulled back in a ponytail and wearing a brown shirt over a white T-shirt and slacks, Grossman, 60, agreed to pay $47,161.89 in restitution to the Iskander family. Her lawyers say the co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation had already donated $25,000 for funeral expenses.

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Dr. Peter Grossman leaves a Van Nuys courthouse with his two children, Nicholas and Alexis.
The family of Rebecca Grossman, from right husband Dr. Peter Grossman and children Nicholas and Alexis, leave the Van Nuys courthouse Monday where Rebecca Grossman was sentenced to 15 years to life for killing two young boys she struck with her SUV as they walked across the street in Westlake Village.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

“I never saw anyone,” Grossman said during sentencing. “I would have driven into a brick wall. ... I don’t know why God did not take my life.”

She said she went into a state of denial after the collision and shut down.

Looking at Nancy Iskander, she said tearfully, “My pain is a fraction of your pain.”

An L.A. County Superior Court judge upheld Grossman’s conviction in the 2020 murders of Mark and Jacob Iskander, saying the evidence was ‘sufficient.’

June 3, 2024

Attorney Ryan Gould said the prosecution was disappointed with the outcome. “We don’t think the judge gave a sentence that was appropriate, in light of everything that Ms. Grossman continues to do,” he said.

The sentencing ends a nearly four-year criminal saga in which prosecutors say Grossman refused to accept responsibility for the boys’ deaths and tried to manipulate the case from behind bars even after her conviction.

After a six-week trial filled with dramatic testimony, Grossman was convicted in February of two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter and one count of hit and run with fatality in the September 2020 killings of the two children.

The boys’ mother testified during trial that her older children had been walking ahead of her and her youngest son in the marked crosswalk on Triunfo Canyon Road when she heard engines roaring. Two sport utility vehicles were barreling toward them.

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Iskander dived for safety, grabbing her 5-year-old son. Her next memory, she said, is of Jacob and Mark crumpled on the roadway.

Grossman was driving behind Scott Erickson, a former Dodgers player, who earlier in the day had been drinking cocktails with her at a nearby restaurant. She was driving as fast as 81 mph and traveled another half-mile after slamming into the children, according to evidence presented at trial.

Nancy Iskander and her husband, Karim, talk with media.
Nancy Iskander and her husband, Karim, talk with media after Rebecca Grossman was sentenced to 15 years to life Monday.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Prosecutors Gould, Habib Balian and Jamie Castro wrote to the judge last week that Grossman showed no remorse: “The defendant’s actions from September 29, 2020, through today show a complete lack of remorse and narcissistic superiority that leads to only one conclusion, that she is not deserving of any leniency.”

On Monday, more than a dozen of the Iskanders’ friends and family members came before the judge to describe the hole left after the boys’ deaths and ask that Grossman receive a lengthy prison term.

Pastor Chamie Delkeskamp of Ascension Lutheran Church in Thousand Oaks said the fatal crash scarred the entire community, noting that many children are now scared to go into a crosswalk. Probation for Grossman “would be a slap in the face of justice,” Delekeskamp said.

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Mark and Jacob Iskander
Mark Iskander, 11, left, and his brother Jacob were killed when Rebecca Grossman struck them in a marked crosswalk in Westlake Village in 2020.
(Family photo)

Former babysitter Natalie Nashed noted that the “senseless crime ... took two innocent souls.”

Sherif Iskander, the boys’ uncle, said Grossman — whom he described as self-centered and entitled — “tried to get away with murder.”

“To this day, she never apologized to our family,” he said.

Joyce Ghobrial, the boys’ grandmother, told the court: “I am just living the rest of my life to die grieving.” As her voice faltered, Nancy Iskander stood and touched her mother’s back to comfort her.

When Bodie Wallace, who was Jacob’s best friend, spoke, Grossman buckled over in her seat, sobbing. The 13-year-old said the song “10,000 Reasons” makes him sad now because he wonders about the “10,000 reasons why Ms. Grossman did not say ‘sorry’ right away.”

The woman convicted of murder in the deaths of two brothers run down at a crosswalk shows no remorse, refuses to take responsibility for the crash, prosecutors say.

June 6, 2024

Grossman’s attorneys, led by James Spertus, had argued that the mother of two, who had no prior criminal record, should be spared prison time. They asked the judge to consider probation with a suspended sentence or a shorter prison term.

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Her lawyers painted a far different picture of Grossman as a “humanitarian” who worked to save female burn victims and victims of domestic violence.

While saying the Iskanders’ loss is “incalculable,” Spertus wrote in a sentencing memorandum last week that the Grossmans have experienced a different loss: the loss of a mother to her two children, and Grossman herself has lost her purpose in life and “bears overwhelming sadness, despair and regret for her role in the tragedy.”

He attached several letters from Grossman’s family and friends, including one from Grossman’s son, Nick, who said, “Nothing compares to what the Iskanders are going through, but ever since the accident, it’s just felt like the world hates my mom and everyone is against our family.”

On Monday, he addressed the court, saying: “My mother is not the bad person the media has painted.”

Grossman’s legal team played a 30-minute video that began with her husband, Dr. Peter Grossman, saying: “We don’t compare our pain to theirs.” The video included daughter Alexis relating how her mother had been abandoned by her father and molested by her own mother’s boyfriend, suffering “every kind of abuse by the age of 13.” Nick described his mother as a “very spiritual person.”

Grossman dropped out of college because she couldn’t afford it, her husband said, and became a flight attendant before starting her own medical device business. He also recounted the story of a badly burned girl from Afghanistan who was 10 when they took her into their home.

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“I give my heart and love to Rebecca,” the now-adult burn patient, Zubaida, said in the video. “She is my mother.”

But Nancy Iskander rejected the case for Grossman’s compassion. She said when she was in the hospital and a doctor outside the emergency room asked her about disconnecting Jacob’s life support, she saw Grossman there.

“She looked me in the eye,” the grieving mother said, with tears in her eyes and steel in her voice. “That was the moment to say something.”

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