Fatal Van Crash Driver Glad Victim Was "Old"

By Greg Cergol and Hasani Gittens
|  Thursday, Apr 22, 2010  |  Updated 3:00 PM EDT
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Driver Kayla Gerdes was allegedly high on painkillers when she crashed a van into a house in <a title=Hempstead, killing a homeowner gardening in her front yard and smashing the van into the front of the red brick house." />

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Driver Kayla Gerdes was allegedly 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.

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Sobbing Suspect in Lawn Death

18-year-old Kayla Gerdes is charged with vehicular manslaughter after hitting a Hempstead LI woman on Tuesday. Police say Gerdes was high on painkillers.
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The teenage girl who cops say was high on prescription drugs when she mowed down a Hempstead homeowner told investigators that "the thing that made me not feel so bad was she was old," according to court documents.

Kayla Gerdes, 18, was high behind the wheel of a van that struck and killed a 69-year-old Rebecca Twine-Wright -- who was mowing her lawn -- and then crashed into the woman's house, said Nassau County police.

According to the court documents, which were obtained by Newsday, Gerdes took solace in the fact that Twine-Wright had lived a long life.

"I mean, 70 years is a long time to live," she said.

Gerdes was ordered held on $200,000 bond after pleading not guilty to vehicular manslaughter and other charges.

On Wednesday, Kayla Gerdes screamed at the cameras and microphones surrounding her as she headed to court.

"It was a mistake," the 18-year-old cried.

"Were you high on drugs?" shouted a reporter.

"No," she sobbed, "It was prescription drugs!  It was all an accident!  Please stop!"

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.

Gerdes was originally a passenger in the van, police said; but, later, took the wheel from driver, Brian Steele, because she felt he wasn't traveling fast enough. Steele has not been charged. His is believed to be her boss, said prosecutors.

"She has a problem," said Lewis, who also insisted there is more to this story, claiming that Gerdes took the wheel because Steele was "in no condition to drive."

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