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LI Teen Who Mowed Down Elderly Woman Arraigned in Court

By STEPHANIE BARISH and ROB HOELL

wpx.com

5:10 PM EDT, June 15, 2010

NEW YORK (WPIX)

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The Freeport woman who was apparently high when she fatally ran over a 69-year-old woman gardening in front of her Hempstead home, has been indicted on 28 charges, including second-degree manslaughter, Nassau County authorities said Tuesday.

Authorities say Kayla Gerdes, 18, was high on prescription painkillers when she drove onto the front lawn of a Hempstead home, killing Rebecca Twine.

Gerdes is charged with second-degree manslaughter and second-degree vehicular manslaughter, operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs, operating a motor vehicle while impaired by the combined use of drugs, reckless endangerment, eight counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance, four counts of forgery, five counts of criminal possession of stolen property, three counts of unlawful possession of marijuana, criminal possession of forgery devices, reckless driving and operating a motor vehicle without a license.

Meanwhile, Brian Steele, the van was not in court Tuesday because he is being evaluated for mental health issues.

Brian Steele was not initially charged back in April when the incident occurred.

Steele denied he was high on drugs the morning of the crash, but wouldn't say why he let his girlfriend 18-year-old Kayla Gerdes, who only had a learners permit, take the wheel.

Gerdes admitted she was on prescription drugs when she ran over Rebecca Twine. Her attorney claimed she only switched with Steele because he was passing out while driving.

Gerdes was indicted on a whole host of charges including manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter. It's possible Steele could face similar charges, however he did not appear in court Tuesday for arraignment.

His attorney told reporters the 29-year-old was institutionalized.

"Brian Steele was involuntarily admitted into a psychiatric ward on Long island where he's now being evaluated for mental health issues," said Michael DerGarabedian. "I believe a lot of it has to do with the pressure that the government has been putting on him with respect to this case and I believe he is just a young man who has cracked."

There is no timetable on when that grand jury indictment will be unsealed because there is no timetable on when Steele will be healthy enough to return to court.