Driver in border crash was mentally ill, judge rules 

Thursday, September 2, 1999


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

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

 Family members of the victims were upset after the ruling. 

 "There's something wrong with a law, with a country that has laws that allow people to get away with murder," said Ishakawa's father, Cat Simril Ishikawa. 

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

 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 player 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 Vancouver, 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, and she would not purposely abuse drugs.

1999 The Associated Press.
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1999 Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
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