Posted at 08:20 a.m. PDT; Thursday, September 2, 1999 

Driver exonerated in fatal
Peace Arch crash

by The Associated Press 

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. - A Kirkland woman charged in a fiery crash that killed two Canadians at the Peace Arch border crossing is not criminally responsible by reason of mental illness, a judge has ruled.

Investigators said Julia Campagna's car was hurtling toward the crossing at nearly 100 mph when it slammed into the back of another car May 30, 1998. The other car exploded in flames, killing Kimberly Brooks, 18, of Port Coquitlam and Monique Ishikawa, 19, of North Vancouver.

A judge was expected to decide today whether to:

-- Have Campagna committed to a mental hospital until she is no longer a threat to society;

-- Conditionally release her under supervision of the court through a probation officer;

-- Close the case on the premise that Campagna suffered a temporary psychosis brought on by the drug and therefore poses no harm to society.

Robert Bonner, the prosecutor in the case, said a mental-health commitment is unlikely and that he expects the judge will choose the second or third option. Doctors have said the woman poses no further threat.

Campagna had been charged with two counts of dangerous driving causing death. She had been released on bail to Washington state.

Doctors testified at the trial before a British Columbia Supreme Court judge this week that Campagna had experienced psychotic delusions brought on by the over-the-counter diet drug Xenedrine. She said she bought the drug nine days before the accident in an effort to lose weight and improve her endurance for running marathons.

She took the drug for five days. It made her feel "jittery and up," she told the court. She stopped taking it four days before the crash on the advice of her doctor, the Vancouver Province reported this week. Even so, she said, her reaction worsened.

"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 told doctors during a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation that she had become convinced she would begin a romance with Dallas Stars hockey center Joe Nieuwendyk in Vancouver.

She said she heard Nieuwendyk's voice over her car radio telling her to speed through the Peace Arch border crossing to Canada, where she would conceive a baby by Nieuwendyk. After the crash, she signed in at a hospital emergency room as Julia Nieuwendyk.

Dr. Raymond Vath of Bellevue was one of three psychiatrists who testified this week. He said there is little chance that Campagna will have a relapse into psychosis.

Copyright 1999 Seattle Times Company