Tuesday, August 31, 1999

Delusions were like spiritual experience

By Helen Plischke
Staff Reporter

Julia Campagna thought she was having a "spiritual experience" in the days leading up to her fiery crash, in which two people died, at the Peach Arch border crossing.

Campagna took the stand in a New Westminster

Julia Campagna
symptoms got worse
court yesterday where she testified that she had no other way to interpret the delusions she started having after taking a herbal weight-loss product.

Three psychiatrists have testified that the Washington state woman's psychotic episode was triggered by an over-the-counter drug called Xenedrine.

Court has heard that Campagna, 28, took the drug for five days, stopping four days before the accident on May 30, 1998, at the border crossing.

Kimberly Brooks, 18, and Monique Ishikawa, 19, died in a fiery explosion when their car was struck from behind by Campagna's speeding vehicle.

Even though she wasn't talomg the drug. her delusions grew, Campagna said.

"I had a difficult time trying to figure out what was going on," she told the judge. "I didn't know what to attribute it to, other than I was having a spiritual experience."

She said she bought the drug in order to lose weight to improve her marathon running. She went to a health-food store in Kirkland, Wash., where a clerk recommended she take Xenedrine.

Within hours of taking the first tablets, Campagna said, she felt "jittery" and "up." When she started experiencing insomnia and a racing mind, she went back to the health-food store, where she was told her body just had to "adjust" to the medication.

When the symptoms got worse, Campagna phoned her family physician and was told to stop taking the drug. She complied, but the symptoms continued to grow.

She became convinced that she was to begin a romance with a National Hockey League player who was meeting her in Vancouver. Earlier court heard that Campagna believed she was carrying NHL star Joe Nieuwendyk's baby.

Campagna said the time since the accident has been stressful for her.

"I think about what happened and I go over it in my mind and I wish there was some way..." she trailed off.

"I don't know why it happemed, I don't know why I loved and they didn't. I don't understand it."

Campagna said she had never shown signs of a mental illness, even though her mother has been hospitalized for a mental illness, and her sister was hospitalized for a mental illness induced by LSD use.