Passenger charged in deadly DWI accident

Brian Steele

June 16, 2010 2:27:17 PM PDT
A grand jury has indicted a passenger in a deadly DWI accident on Long Island. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said that Brian Steele was indicted on four counts for allowing 18-year-old Kayla Gerdes to drive while high on drugs just minutes before she jumped the curb and ran down 69-year-old Dr. Rebecca Twine-Wright as she mowed her front lawn.

A grand jury returned a 28-count indictment against Gerdes on June 8.

Steele, 29, of Oceanside is charged with acting in concert with Gerdes for his role in the crash. He faces charges of Manslaughter in the Second Degree, Criminally Negligent Homicide, and Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree. He is also charged with Unlawful Possession of Marijuana. He faces up to five to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Bail was set at $50,000 cash or bond. He is due back in court on October 18.

The accident happened on April 20. Gerdes was driving a van southbound on Cathedral Avenue when she swerved onto the front lawn of a residence, striking and killing Twine-Wright. Dr. Twine-Wright was pinned underneath the front axle of the van and the foundation of her home in Oceanside.

Gerdes was behind the wheel of Brian Steele's work van, investigators said. Following the crash, Gerdes was also found to be in possession of a stolen doctor's prescription pad and a pill bottle containing 22 Oxycodone pills and 29 Xanax pills, they said.

Steele, who was a passenger in the van at the time of the crash, was arrested in a seperate incident last week in which he was charged with driving while high on Xanax and Vicodin.

"Steele's reckless conduct in allowing Gerdes to drive the van that day, knowing that she was high on numerous drugs, certainly shows a total lack of judgment and his shared responsibility in Dr. Twine-Wright's death," Rice said. "It is also incomprehensible to me that Steele could be involved in such a horrific crash and then drive while high on drugs just weeks later."

Gerdes faces charges of second-degree manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs, operating a motor vehicle while impaired by the combined use of drugs, reckless endangerment, criminal possession of a controlled substance, forgery, criminal possession of stolen property, unlawful possession of marijuana, criminal possession of forgery devices, reckless driving and operating a motor vehicle without a license.

She faces a maximum possible sentence of up to 59 years in prison if convicted.