Driver charged with murder in pedestrian deaths

The Associated Press
Tuesday February 27, 2001

SANTA BARBARA — Prosecutors charged a college freshman with four counts of murder and other crimes Monday for allegedly running down pedestrians with his car in a neighborhood near the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

David E. Attias, 18, accused of being behind the wheel of a car that killed four people and injured a fifth as it barreled down an Isla Vista street Friday night, was scheduled for arraignment on 13 felony counts Tuesday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court. 

Attias, of Santa Monica, was charged with four counts of murder, four counts of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and five counts of driving while under the influence of drugs and causing great bodily injury. 

The scene of victims strewn on the street and Attias fighting with other young men before his arrest was videotaped by a local cameraman. 

Attias, who was held without bail, is the son of Daniel Attias, who has directed episodes of “Ally McBeal,” “The Practice” and “The Sopranos.” 

The Attias family could not be reached for comment Monday despite several calls to their Santa Monica home. Officials said that Attias was being represented by a Los Angeles lawyer, but the attorney’s identity was not released. 

Killed in the crash were Nicholas Shaw Bourdakis and Christopher Edward Divis, both 20 and UCSB students; Ruth Dasha Golda Levy, 20, a Santa Barbara City College student; and Elie Israel, 27, of San Francisco. 

Levy’s older brother, Albert Arthur Levy, 27, remained in critical condition Monday after multiple surgeries. 

Albert Levy was in town from San Francisco, where he lived with Israel, to visit his sister, said sheriff’s Lt. Mike Burridge. 

Witnesses said Attias got out of the car and shouted, “I am the angel of death!” the Santa Barbara News-Press reported. Police said they could not confirm the report. 

Neighbors and fellow students in newspaper reports described Attias as a loner with a hyperactive nature. He was known as “Crazy Dave” in the private 10-story dormitory where he lived near campus. 

They said Attias would barge into rooms, follow people into elevators for companionship and invite himself into dining groups at the cafeteria. 

“He was always fidgeting. He looked like he was kind of whacked-out,” neighbor Zack Chancer told the Los Angeles Times. 

A freshman told the Times and the Santa Barbara paper that Attias made claims of speaking with God and sometimes acted erratically. He also had become a recent fan of techno music and played it loudly at the dorm. 

Attias, who has not declared a major, graduated from Concord High School in Santa Monica last year. 

“He was a very regular student and did what he was supposed to do,” said Susan Packer Davis, 49, administrator of the school. “He didn’t cause any scenes and did not do anything untoward at all.” 

A candlelight service was scheduled for Monday night at Isla Vista and a memorial service will be held Thursday at Storke Plaza on the UCSB campus. 

Students have organized distribution of yellow ribbons to remember the victims, said school spokeswoman Joan Magruder. 

“I’ve been on this campus for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Magruder said. “Students start crying when they see the flag at half-staff. There is so much grief and they are so traumatized by it. ... Students are walking with their head down and I haven’t heard one bit of laughter at all today.”