Teen indicted in deadly LI van crash

June 8, 2010 2:33:57 PM PDT
An indictment was unsealed Tuesday against an 18-year-old who was reportedly high on prescription drugs when she slammed her van into a woman on Long Island.

A grand jury returned the 28-count indictment against Kayla Gerdes, who is accused of killing 69-year-old Dr. Rebecca Twine-Wright as she mowed the lawn of her Hempstead home.

Gerdes, of Freeport, now 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.

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

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said that on April 20 at approximately 9:40 a.m. on a straight road in good weather, 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.

Gerdes was behind the wheel of Brian Steele's work van. 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. 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.

"It is unfathomable that we can not feel safe on the front lawns of our own homes," Rice said. "This defendant was focused on nothing else but getting high, and now an innocent woman has been violently killed. This horrible tragedy will be aggressively prosecuted by my office, and Dr. Twine-Wright's family will see justice served."

Officials said last week that Steele will likely be charged in this case as well.