Gabrielle Nestande, the 24-year-old former legislative aid accused in the hit-and-run death of Courtney Griffin, was in court for the second time Wednesday.
It was the first hearing for Assistant District Attorney Allison Wetzel, who was recently re-assigned as lead prosecutor in the case. Courtney’s father, Bart Griffin, said he’s confident about the state’s switch to Wetzel given the high-profile nature of his daughter’s death.
Nestande was indicted in September by a Travis Grand Jury with failure to stop and render aid, a third-degree felony carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Griffin’s family is hoping for harsher charges down the line.
“We still hope that, as a family, stronger charges will be filed against Gabrielle Nestande, so we’re hoping for that," Bart Griffin said. "If that information is out there, and that evidence is out there, then we are really going to push that those charges be filed."
Courtney Griffin was walking to her home in the early morning hours of May 27 when she was struck by Nestande’s black BMW in the 1600 block of Exposition Boulevard, between Bridle Path and Bonnie Road. A homeowner in the area discovered Griffin’s body in her driveway and called police shortly after 5 a.m.
An anonymous tip later that morning led officers to the vehicle, which was parked not too far from the scene. Police linked the BMW to Nestande and arrested her at the State Capitol several hours later, where she was working as an administrative aid to Rep. Wayne Christian. She was released from Travis County Jail the same night on $35,000 bail.
More than 20 of Griffin’s family and friends were present at Wednesday’s hearing, even huddling outside the court room doors to watch Nestande leave. Bart Griffin said he hopes the slew of support resonates with the 24-year-old Californian.
“I hope it has an impact on her. Whether it does or not, I don’t know. She left my daughter for dead so it may have no impact on her,” he said. “But it’s good for us, it’s good for our family and our friends to be there, to be there to support Courtney, to demand justice for Courtney.”
Griffin said he hopes to find the right legislator to help his family pursue stronger punishment for failure to stop and render aid charges. As for now, he continues to mourn the loss of his daughter.
“It is a bitter hole, there’s no question about that. We miss her daily. We think about her daily and we cry daily—that part of it is just not going to go away,” he said.
Nestande’s next pre-trial hearing is set for Jan. 20.