No penalty for deaths

Accused found not criminally liable for loss of lives

Katherine Hamer
Contributing Writer

Wednesday 8 September 1999

photo Ishikawa family

BEST friends: Monique Ishikawa,
right, and friend Kimberly Brooks

THE American woman who killed two teens in a car crash last year will walk away from two charges of dangerous driving causing death.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled Thursday that an over-the-counter diet drug taken by Julia Campagna, 28, of Kirkland, Washington, had precipitated a "psychotic mental disorder" and that Campagna could not be held criminally responsible for her actions.

Campagna rear-ended the vehicle of Monique Ishikawa, 19, and her friend Kimberly Brooks, 18, at the Peace Arch border crossing on May 30 last year.

Brooks, of Port Coquitlam, and Ishikawa, of North Vancouver, died instantly.

The two girls had been on a shopping trip to Seattle. Their natural gas-powered car burst into flames when it was struck by Campagna's 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix at a speed of at least 85 km/h.

The speed limit at the crossing was 30 km/h.

Best friends for years, the girls were both well-liked. Ishikawa had recently graduated from Sutherland secondary school and was due to start classes at Capilano College in the fall.

Campagna had been taking Xenedrine, a diet drug containing Ephedrine, for five days straight, stopping four days before the accident. The drug is legally available in the U.S.

Campagna has a family history of mental illness. At the time of the accident, she was suffering from a delusion that she was carrying NHL hockey player Joe Nieuwendyk's baby.

Though Campagna and Nieumendyk had never met, she said she heard his voice on her car radio, urging her to speed across the border. She thought that if she drove fast enough, she could fly.

Ephedrine, which is derived from the Chinese herb Ephedra, is frequently used by athletes as a stimulant. It was one of the drugs taken by shamed hockey player Steve Vezina during the Pan Am Games last month.

After being linked to incidences of strokes, heart attacks, and seizures, Ephedrine is under renewed assessment by the American Food and Drug Administration.

For individuals like Julia Campagna who are already predisposed towards mental illness, the drug can cause hallucinations and psychotic episodes.

Campagna was certified as psychotic after being examined by forensic psychiatrist Dr. LeeAnne Meldrum shortly after the accident.

But during her trial, according to Monique's father Cat Simril, Campagna was said to have suffered only temporary insanity.

"They went out of their way to portray her as the sanest possible person," he said. "The whole trial celebrated what a wonderful person she is. The fact that she killed two people is just a footnote to her whole glorious career."

Simril said he asked prosecutors last year if Campagna could be extradited for trial in the U.S. He was told that Campagna's offence was "too minor."

"It's hideous," he said yesterday. "At one time we assumed the justice system would bring justice. That's something we abandoned long ago."

Simril and his wife Fumiyo Ishikawa will not be appealing the decision. "What would it accomplish?" he asked.

However, the families of other victims injured in the multi-vehicle accident intend to file a civil suit against Campagna.

Campagna psychiatrist in the U.S. has not recommended any supervision for her -- and she has already been given permission to drive again. "She's a serious threat to the people of Seattle," said Simril.

Last month, a plaque was set up at Peace Arch crossing in honour of the two girls. Monique's family have also set up a Web sit in her memory at <>. The site features voice recordings and a photo gallery of Monique, as well as reminiscences from those who knew her.