Updated 10/21/2011 12:40 PM
Accused hit-and-run driver faces victim's supporters
Nestande in court Friday.
The family and friends of a deadly hit-and-run victim are speaking out against an indictment handed down by the district attorney earlier this year.
Police say Gabrielle Jane Nestande, a former administrative aid to Republican Rep. Wayne Christian, fled the scene after she struck and killed 30-year-old Courtney Griffin with her vehicle during the early morning hours of May 27 in Austin's Tarrytown neighborhood.
Nestande, 24, was in court for the first time Friday for a pre-trial conference.
A slew of Griffin’s family and friends attended the hearing, many who expressed their unhappiness with the charges Nestande faces. The native Californian was indicted by a Travis County Grand Jury on Sept. 29 for failure to stop and render aid, a third-degree felony.
Courtney’s father, Bart Griffin, described seeing Nestande in person as a “horrible” experience, and plans to push for additional charges as the case moves forward.
“It’s really kind of outrageous, and really everyone in the viewing area should be outraged at the charge,” he said. “We are going to continue to press the DA’s office for additional charges. I think there’s evidence out there to support that, and we will just continue to push that direction.”
Griffin was walking to her home when she was struck in the 1600 block Exposition Boulevard, between Bridle Path and Bonnie Road. A homeowner in the area discovered Griffin’s body in her driveway and called police shortly after 5 a.m.
An anonymous tip later that morning led officers to a black BMW parked not too far from the scene. Police linked the BMW to Nestande and arrested her at the State Capitol several hours later. She was released from Travis County Jail the same night on $35,000 bail.
Griffin’s friend Eddie Kamar says Nestande’s actions and the grand jury’s indictment don’t add up.
“This person left my friend to die on the side of the road for a few hours, left and didn’t even give her a chance,” he said. “I mean anybody in their right state of mind would say that the indictment is mild at best.”
Nestande’s next pre-trial hearing is set for Dec. 7. For Bart Griffin, the months of court proceedings have been a “nightmare.”
“There’s not an hour that passes by that I don’t think about Courtney in some way,” he said. “A telephone call, a laugh, whatever, it’s just been horrible.”
Kamar and Griffin’s community of supporters say they plan to see the trial through, and hope to see steeper charges down the line.
“We all love Courtney very much and we are just here to show our support for Courtney, she’s always been there for us,” he said. “If you are in the courthouse today you can see how many people came for Courtney and it’s just a reflection of how many lives she’s touched.”
Police believe alcohol played a factor in the crash. If convicted, Nestande faces up to 10 years in prison.