The arraignment of UCSB freshman David Attias, charged with multiple counts of murder and manslaughter, was delayed until Tuesday, March 6, at the request of defense attorney Robert Sanger.
Attias was behind the wheel of the 1991 Saab that struck five pedestrians in Isla Vista on Friday night, killing four of them and critically injuring a fifth, according to California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Mike Muell. Santa Barbara County district attorney Patrick McKinley has charged Attias with four counts of murder, four counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, five counts of felony driving under the influence with injuries and two counts of misdemeanor assault.
UCSB students Christopher Divis and Nicholas Bourdakis, Santa Barbara City College student Ruth Levy and San Francisco resident Elie Israel were all killed in the accident. Albert Levy, also a San Francisco resident, was still listed in critical condition at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital on Tuesday evening.
Both of Attias’ parents were present at the motions. Daniel Attias made a brief statement outside of Santa Barbara Superior Court after the arraignment was postponed.
“I’m Daniel Attias, David’s father, and I am also speaking on behalf of his mother. We’re both struck by how hopeless this is. I just want to say how heartbroken we are for everyone who has been affected by this, this very horrible tragedy,” he said. “We know that it has affected not only the loved ones and the families of the victims, whose grief has been unspeakable, and we extend whatever compassion we’re capable of. We know that it has also left a terrible gash in the community, and we cannot begin to tell you how saddened we are.”
CHP Capt. Bob Clements said the Multi-disciplinary Accident Investigation Team, a specialized agency of the CHP, is conducting the ongoing police investigation.
“We are still running blood tests to check for a variety of substances. We are contacting witnesses that have come forward – there is a minimum of 46 witnesses to contact – and we are going to follow all leads,” Clements said. “They will do analysis of the vehicle itself and reconstruct the timeline that led to the incidents. … The investigation will look into the background and history [of Attias].”
Attias spent his sophomore year in high school at the Woodlen Lodge Program in Vermont, according to a roommate of Attias’ at Woodlen Lodge who wished to be identified as Nate. While in the program, students attend St. Johnsbury Academy. Nate said the Woodlen Lodge Program is a one-year transitional program intended to provide high school students with a structured setting to aid their academic performance.
“It was tailored differently for everybody. The thing was, it was so intense, the place where we lived, because there was so few of us and there was so much emphasis on turning around the different aspects of our life that had problems. For me it was just academics,” he said. “Some people had more problems than others. Dave was one of our — at one point — a student proctor, which basically meant you do what you want and you’re responsible for making sure that nobody else gets in any huge trouble. So he was relatively trusted. Out of all the people who were there, he was definitely not at the top of the list as far as having problems. He had some problems, but we think that his parents probably just couldn’t deal with it. Dave had no real drug problems. He had minor problems like getting in arguments with people and causing problems in school. I can tell you that this is completely an isolated event, he was never insane; he never had behavioral problems on this par.”
After his year in Vermont, Attias graduated from Concord High School, a small, prestigious private school in Santa Monica. Concord’s Director Susan Packer Davis said Attias was a normal student who maintained good grades while in high school.
“During the two years that he was here, he was a very placid, docile student. He wasn’t at the top of the class, but he wasn’t at the bottom either. He had friends, but he wasn’t the most gregarious; he was sort of an unremarkable child,” she said. “However, people have things inside of them that sometimes don’t become apparent until later in their life. Basically, all I remember really is him going off to college, he didn’t have any real passions, and he was just a normal kid; he would gripe to me when he got a bad grade. His parents wrote me a lovely note about how great his experience was at Concord, how much he enjoyed it, and that’s the last I heard.”
Undeclared freshman Jocelyn Hunter, an acquaintance of Attias’, said she was surprised when she discovered he was the driver of the car in Friday’s accident.
“At the beginning of the year he was always out in the hall, like all freshmen, trying to make friends and everything, but then he became really more of a shut-in. I would only run into him in the elevator and stuff, so I can’t really say, but he did change over the last couple of months,” she said. “I can’t say now, but he was a nice guy; he was troubled. Anybody could see that he was going downhill, but never this badly to kill people. It’s terrible.”