Testimony continued Tuesday in the restoration of sanity hearing for David Attias, the man convicted of murder for hitting five people with his car in Isla Vista in 2001.

He killed Nick Bourdakis, Chris Divis, Elie Israel and Ruth Levy, and critically injured Levy’s brother, Bert Levy, who died in 2016.

Attias, 39, who was an 18-year-old UC Santa Barbara freshman at the time, was convicted of four counts of murder and acquitted of driving under the influence. During the sanity portion of the criminal trial, he was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Attias was sent to a state psychiatric hospital and spent 10 years there before being released into the Department of State Hospitals’ conditional-release program (CONREP) in Ventura County, where he’s been since 2012.

Attias is petitioning the court for restoration of sanity and unconditional release from his program.

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Thomas Adams will decide either to grant the petition or to deny it and keep Attias in the supervision program.

Witnesses during last week’s testimony included psychologists, Attias’ family and friends, and Attias himself.

They testified about Attias’ mental health history, which is central to the current proceedings, and said he is doing well in the CONREP program.

On Tuesday, Lisa Bendimez, a licensed forensic psychologist who treated Attias at CONREP for three years, testified that as of 2020, when she left her position, Attias was not ready to leave the program.

In response to questioning from Deputy District Attorney Maggie Charles, Bendimez said Attias at the time had issues he needed to work on, including recognizing triggers and managing his reactions to things.

Bendimez said CONREP works with clients like Attias who have court-ordered terms and conditions, including regular therapy sessions, random urine analysis for drug testing, and unannounced home visits.

The goal is to help people become self-sufficient and manage their mental health symptoms appropriately on their own, Bendimez said.

For Attias, rejection was a “salient trigger in his history” that led to symptoms and drug use in the past — rejection by peers, by women and by society, Bendimez said.

“The drugs made him more comfortable around other people,” she said.

She testified about some specific instances where Attias faced a negative response or rejection in recent years, including disagreements with co-workers and losing a job offer at a bank after the criminal background check.

Bendimez also said Attias felt his employment and dating opportunities were limited by the required therapy schedules (on weekdays) and not being allowed to drive a car.

He wanted a car so that on dates women wouldn’t see that he takes Uber and Lyft rideshare vehicles all the time “and think something’s wrong with him,” she testified.

That directly contradicts Attias’ own testimony from last week, when he said he never wants to drive a vehicle again.

“I just don’t want to get behind the wheel after what happened,” he said on the stand Wednesday. 

Jack Earley, Attias’ attorney, asked Bendimez if she thought Attias should always be on CONREP.

He wants to get married and have a family, and have as normal as possible a life, she said, adding, “and I want that for him.”

She replied that it was the goal for Attias to leave the program eventually.

“However, if he’s not going to be successful or he’s going to harm somebody, that’s concerning to me,” she said.

CONREP progress reports, which are provided to the court and state hospitals, include the recommendation that Attias continue in the program, she said.

Testimony in the hearing is scheduled to continue Wednesday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at gmagnoli@noozhawk.com.