Gabrielle Nestande, Former OC Supervisor's Daughter and Rick Perry Campaign Worker, Indicted on Single Charge in Woman's Hit-and-Run Death in Texas

Gabrielle Jane Nestande--the 24-year-old daughter of former Orange County Supervisor and state Assemblyman Bruce Nestande, half sister of Riverside Republican Assemblyman Brian Nestande and former campaign worker for Texas Gov. Rick Perry--has been indicted by the Travis County grand jury on a single charge of failing to stop and render aid to a pedestrian she killed with her car after a night of drinking.

Hit-and-run and involuntary manslaughter charges also seemed possible in the case, and the grand jury could conceivably return additional charges later. But the attorney for Ms. Nestande, who has been free since posting bond after her arrest in May, told various media outlets in Texas today that he is pleased his client faces only a single charge--albeit one that could bring up to 10 years in a prison cell with a conviction.

Around 5 a.m. on May 27, a homeowner found the bloodied body of Courtney Paige Griffin, a nanny and former veterinary technician, in the driveway of his home in Tarrytown, an upscale neighborhood west of downtown Austin. The 30-year-old had been thrown through a bush, and there was a piece of a broken headlight lens nearby.

An anonymous call came in around 9 a.m. from someone who spotted a black BMW 3 Series sedan with a broken windshield parked in the driveway of a home about a half-mile from where Griffin's body was found. Upon closer inspection, police discovered damage to the front right quarterpanel and bumper, the windshield and the passenger side mirror. Pieces of clothing were lodged in cracks in the windshield.

The car was traced to Nestande, who had parked at the home of an acquaintance before getting a ride to her job that Friday morning in the office of Texas Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Center), where she worked as an administrative aide. (Nestande left her job after her arrest.) Someone at the home told police Nestande had arrived in tears, saying someone threw something at her car's windshield.

Authorities caught up with her at the Texas Capitol in Austin. During questioning, she is alleged to have admitted to being the driver, of having been involved in an accident but not knowing what to do. She then declined to speak further without first consulting a lawyer. She was charged with failing to stop and render aid and released after making her $35,000 bail.

Days later, police said they suspected the former Newport Beach resident had been drinking before striking the woman with her Beemer. Calls are starting coming in to the Texas media from people who had seen Nestande in bars the night before Griffin's body was found.

Nestande's father was a special assistant to then-Governor Ronald Reagan in the early 1970s and chairman of the state GOP from 1972-73. He got elected to the state Assembly out of Orange County in 1974 and remained in the lower house through 1980. He was an Orange County supervisor from 1980-87. He chaired the California Transportation Commission and, in 1994, Michael Huffington's unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate. His son by another mother, Brian Nestande, is currently a state assemblyman out of the Palm Desert area.

Bruce Nestande served six months of house arrest and three years probation after pleading guilty in 2007 to driving drunk the wrong way on a one-way street and hitting a parked car in Newport Beach. 

Gabrielle attended Baylor University and worked as an unpaid intern for Perry's successful 2010 re-election campaign. The day before Griffin's body was found, the Texas Legislature honored Nestande with a resolution for her work at the Capitol.

Don't expect to see the signature of Laurie Griffin, Courtney's mother, on such a resolution. "The difference between she and Gabrielle are night and day," she tells Austin's American-Statesman. "My daughter was a rescuer and a protector, and this girl, in my eyes, is a monster and a murderer. And she didn't care enough about my child to stop and help her."

Friends and family of Griffin, along with those skeptical about equal treatment under the law of a politically connected suspect, have been closely monitoring the case via Facebook.


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