VAN NUYS – The driver who crashed his car into a multiple parked vehicles on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, killing four Pepperdine University students, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder and other charges, and his attorney claimed his client was being chased at the time following a road rage incident.
Fraser Michael Bohm, 22, of Malibu, was re-arrested Tuesday, with bail set at $8 million, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. According to court records, he was charged Tuesday with four counts of murder and four counts of vehicular manslaughter.
Bohm pleaded not guilty to the charges during an arraignment hearing in Van Nuys, and his bail was reduced to $4 million.
Bohm’s attorney, Michael Kraut, told reporters outside court that his client was being chased following a road rage incident at the time.
Initial reports indicated that wasn’t the case.
When a reporter asked Traffic Detective Roger Schultz, at the time of the crash, if this might have been some sort of “speed contest,” he said, “There was no other vehicle, that we know of, that was involved. Other than that, it’s still under investigation also.”
“This is exceptionally tragic,” Kraut said. “The family grieves equally with each other over what’s going on. I mean, they feel horrible that this has happened. The issue here is whether it’s murder or manslaughter or not a crime. That’s really what we’re here to look at. We have evidence that the sheriff’s department did not want to take that clearly shows that there was a road rage incident.”
District Attorney George Gascón said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference that Bohm was driving at more than 100 mph when the crash occurred.
Bohm was initially taken into custody following the 8:30 p.m. Oct. 17 crash on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. Jail records show he was released from custody around 7:20 a.m. last Wednesday while sheriff’s officials continued their investigation into the cause of the crash, including the driver’s possible impairment.
Sheriff’s officials said Bohm was driving west at a high rate of speed in the 21600 block of Pacific Coast Highway when he lost control of his sedan and slammed into at least three vehicles parked on the north side of the roadway. Those parked vehicles struck the four Pepperdine students who were standing or walking nearby, leaving them dead at the scene.
The crash killed Niamh Rolston, 20, Peyton Stewart, 21, Asha Weir, 21, and Deslyn Williams, 21, all seniors at Pepperdine’s Seaver College of Liberal Arts.
Bohm suffered minor scratches and bruises.
Although he was arrested at the scene, he was later released “to allow detectives time to gather the evidence needed to secure the strongest criminal filing and conviction,” according to a Tuesday night statement from the sheriff’s department announcing his re-arrest.
“When a case is presented to the District Attorney’s Office, you need to present supporting evidence for the specific charges being requested for filing within 48 hours,” the statement said. “In this specific case, the evidence including toxicology, speed analysis, execution of search warrants, etc. was still pending and took additional time to collect.”
Investigators presented their case to the District Attorney’s Office on Monday, which filed the charges against Bohm Tuesday. He was arrested Tuesday afternoon.
The crash has renewed calls for safety improvements on PCH, particularly in the area of the crash, which some call “Dead Man’s Curve.” The Malibu City Council on Monday heard from dozens of residents calling for action to improve safety and force drivers to slow down on the stretch.
The council called on its staff to prepare a report on conditions on PCH and a possible declaration of a local emergency, which would allow the use of local resources to implement safety measures.