LOS ANGELES (AP) — The 22-year-old driver of a BMW that struck and killed four Pepperdine University students in Malibu last week was charged with four counts of murder and was held on $4 million bail, authorities said Wednesday.
Fraser Bohm pleaded not guilty to all charges at a hearing Wednesday, a day after he was arrested. Bohm was also charged with four counts of gross vehicular manslaughter, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said at a news conference.
“The investigation revealed the defendant knew his actions were dangerous to human life and deliberately acted with a conscious disregard for human life,” Gascón said.
The defendant’s attorney, Michael Kraut, told The Associated Press the crash occurred as Bohm was being chased following a road rage incident. Bohm had been texting at a stop light when a man in another car began shouting and then chased him, Kraut said.
“The guy comes into his lane, hits my client’s car with his car and forces him off the road,” Kraut said.
Bohm passed all field sobriety tests following the crash, Kraut said, and has no criminal record, “not even a traffic ticket.”
Bohm had initially been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter after the Oct. 17 crash but was released a day later while investigators gathered more evidence, according to a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
“In this specific case, the evidence including toxicology, speed analysis, execution of search warrants, etc. was still pending and took additional time to collect,” the statement said.
Bohm’s bail was set at $8 million but was later lowered to $4 million, according to the district attorney’s office.
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.
The four sorority sisters 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 before crashing into them and hitting two other people, according to authorities. The four women died at the scene and the two others were taken to a hospital with injuries.
“The Sheriff’s Department is relentlessly working to ensure we get justice for the victims’ families,” the statement said.
Weir was from Philadelphia and studying English, while Rolston, from Los Angeles, and Stewart, from New York, were both studying business, according to CBS Los Angeles. Williams was from an Atlanta suburb and looking into becoming a veterinarian.
Provost Jay Brewster at a prayer service last week at the university called them “bright lights with promise and aspirations.”
Bohm, who turned 22 the day before the crash, was a student athlete during high school. A 2017 Los Angeles Times story said the infielder-pitcher at Chaminade Prep was “highly regarded.”
Christopher Weber, The Associated Press