Pepperdine University

Driver charged with murder in high-speed Malibu PCH crash that killed 4 Pepperdine students

Prosecutors say the BMW's digital event recorder logged speeds of 104 mph seconds before the deadly Oct. 17 crash.

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A 22-year-old driver of a BMW that struck and killed four Pepperdine University students in Malibu was traveling 104 mph seconds before the horrific crash on a stretch of Pacific Coast Highway, prosecutors said when they announced charges against him Wednesday.

Fraser Bohm was charged with four counts of murder and four counts of vehicular manslaughter in the Oct. 17 crash. He made his initial court appearance Wednesday, a day after he was re-arrested in the investigation.

He pleaded not guilty and was being held on $4 million bail.

Bohm had previously been arrested after the crash on a twisting section of the seaside road, but was released a day later while investigators gathered evidence. District Attorney George Gascón said during a Wednesday afternoon news
conference that Bohm was driving at more than 100 mph when the crash occurred in the 45 mph speed zone.

The digital event recorder in Bohm's car recorded speeds of 104 mph, between 2.5 and 4.5 seconds before impact, prosecutors said.

Bohm's attorney, Michael Kraut, told reporters outside court that his client was being chased following a road rage incident at the time. He said the car's data recorder was incorrect, and that the car was traveling at 70 mph.

"This is exceptionally tragic,'' he 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.''

Prosecutors said the defendant said in a post-crash interview with detectives that he might have been texting prior to the crash. He also told detectives that the crash happened when a car pulled into lanes of traffic from the center median, and that he swerved or clipped that car before slamming into parked cars, prosecutors said.

The college students were walking along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway at 8:30 p.m. in Malibu, only a few miles from the Christian university, when the driver lost control and sideswiped at least three parked vehicles that crashed into them, investigators said. The four women died at the scene and two other people were injured.

Pepperdine identified those killed as Niamh Rolston, Peyton Stewart, Asha Weir and Deslyn Williams, all seniors at the school's Seaver College of Liberal Arts.

Peyton Stewart's father said the sheriff's department informed him of the charges against the suspect Tuesday night.

"I say, 'You must have pretty strong evidence if you’re going to go with such a serious charge,'" Barry Stewart said. "And, she said, 'Yes, we do.'"

Provost Jay Brewster at a prayer service last week at the university called them “bright lights with promise and aspirations.”

The crash happened on a stretch of road described by locals as "Dead Man's Curve." On Monday, Malibu residents gathered at a city council meeting to call for increased safety measures on PCH.

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