Dead boys' mother feels a 'stab in the heart' after Rebecca Grossman avoids toughest sentence

Van Nuys, CA - June 10: Karim Iskander, right, and wife Nancy Iskander, center, arrive for Rebecca Grossman sentencing on Monday, June 10, 2024 in Van Nuys, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Karim Iskander, right, and wife Nancy Iskander, center, arrive for Rebecca Grossman's sentencing on Monday in Van Nuys. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

For months, Nancy Iskander came to court hoping to get justice for her two young sons, who were struck and killed by philanthropist Rebecca Grossman in a Westlake Village crosswalk.

She offered graphic, wrenching testimony about witnessing Grossman's Mercedes speeding toward the boys as they took a family walk in their neighborhood. At sentencing on Monday, she recounted how Grossman refused to apologize at the hospital that night.

Now, Iskander says she is disgusted with how the case ultimately ended.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino on Monday sentenced Grossman to two concurrent terms of 15 years to life, plus another concurrent three years for fleeing the scene of the fatal crash. That means Grossman will serve 15 years to life. She had been facing 34 years to life in prison.

“I feel this was a stab in the heart to me that he counted these two lovely boys as one kid,” said Nancy Iskander, who felt the sentences should have been imposed consecutively, one for each of her sons. “These are two different lives. These are two boys, and they don’t go two-for-one.”

More than a dozen of the Iskanders’ friends and family members came before the judge to describe the pain caused by the deaths of Mark, 11, and Jacob, 8, and ask that Grossman receive a lengthy prison term.

The co-founder of the Grossman Burn Foundation was convicted in February of two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of gross vehicular manslaughter and one count of hit and run with fatality in the September 2020 killings of the two children.

“There is no such thing as killing them a little bit," Iskander said. "She killed them.”

Read more: Rebecca Grossman gets 15 years to life for murder of boys killed in crosswalk

Prosecutors have repeatedly said Grossman has shown no remorse for the crimes.

But before her sentencing Monday, she stood in a Van Nuys courtroom to make one final plea — to Iskander.

When the grieving mother stood to leave, however, Grossman urged her to stay.

“Please don't leave. I've waited almost four years to reach out to you.”

Iskander sat back in her chair and put her head down.

Karim and Nancy Iskander greet supporters outside Van Nuys courtroom.
Karim and Nancy Iskander greet supporters outside Van Nuys courtroom Monday. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

“All l've ever wanted to do is to tell you how sorry I am,” she said with a raspy voice.

Grossman said she had long hoped to talk to Iskander “parent to parent, mother to mother.”

"I am so, so sorry," she said. "My pain is nothing compared to your pain — not even a fraction."

On Monday, Iskander spoke ahead of Grossman's sentencing of the evening she rushed to the hospital after the crash. Mark had been killed on impact, “every bone in his body ... broken,” Iskander testified during Grossman's trial. Jacob, 8, was fighting for his life in the emergency room.

Deputies had brought Grossman to the same hospital to be treated after the collision on Triunfo Canyon Road. The two women saw each other there.

“She looked me in the eye,” Iskander said, her voice rising with emotion as she stared at Grossman in the courtroom. “That was your opportunity. You looked me in the eye. You knew they were dying."

“She is a coward,” Iskander said of Grossman.

Read more: Rebecca Grossman is a narcissist who deserves life in prison for boys' murders, prosecutors say

Grossman and Iskander had spent six weeks in court during the murder trial, but this was the moment both could speak about what kind of sentence Grossman should receive.

In the end, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Joseph Brandolino's sentence did not satisfy prosecutors, who said the punishment was not appropriate.

In court papers leading up to the sentencing, the L.A,.County district attorney's office said Grossman showed a “complete lack of remorse and narcissistic superiority that leads to only one conclusion, that she is not deserving of any leniency.”

Brandolino, however, said that while Grossman's behavior was “reckless and unquestionably negligent," she is “not a monster as the prosecutors portrayed her to be.”

Dr. Peter Grossman leaves a Van Nuys courthouse with children, Nick and Alexis.
Dr. Peter Grossman leaves a Van Nuys courthouse with children, Nick and Alexis after his wife Rebecca Grossman was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison Monday. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Until Monday, Grossman had said little publicly about the case.

In addressing Iskander, she insisted she was sorry, saying she wished she had died and not the boys.

“If I could give my life right now and say to God, 'Could you just please bring Mark and Jacob back,' I would tell God to take my life,” she said.

To Iskander, however, Grossman's emotions didn't feel genuine. "Her crying was all show to me yesterday.”

Grossman’s family offered testimonials in an effort to show the good in her. Her son, Nick, told the court: “My mother is not the bad person the media has painted.”

But his comments did not sway Sherif Iskander, the boys’ uncle, who said Grossman “tried to get away with murder.”

Nancy Iskander and her husband, Karim, think the sentencing also sends the wrong message about fleeing the scene of a crash. By not tacking on the additional years for the hit-and-run conviction, the judge “is telling the public it is OK to hit and run,” Iskander said. She and her husband are now honoring the memory of their sons with a foundation to support to underserved children.

The sentencing has left her “hugely disappointed in the justice system,” she said.

“No one is entitled to kill anyone and run away,” Iskander said. “I am still looking for the day she admits she did it.”

Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.