An 18-year-old was ordered held on $200,000 bond today after pleading not guilty to vehicular manslaughter and other charges in a crash that killed a 69-year-old woman.
Driver Kayla Gerdes was high on painkillers when she crashed a van into a house in Hempstead, killing a homeowner gardening in her front yard and smashing the van into the front of the red brick house, authorities said. She was arraigned Wednesday in Nassau County District Court.
Defense attorney John R. Lewis says his client was headed to court on Tuesday to face grand larceny charges for stealing jewelry from her mother when the crash occurred. Lewis says Gerdes was devastated when told that Rebecca Twine-Wright had been killed. He said Gerdes has an addiction problem and was enrolled in a rehabilitation program.
The victim was apparently killed while mowing her lawn. Neighbors say the woman, who has not been identified, enjoyed tending to her yard.
"She was always in the garden" said neighbor Guillermo San Roman. "She has no landscaper. She did everything by herself."
Before the victim's body was removed--priests from a Greek Orthodox church across the street and gave the woman last rites.
The van made a severe left hand swerve off the road and into the house. Police believe it was traveling at a high rate of speed--and there's no sign of any brake skid marks.