Lindsey Bourdakis spent the 21st anniversary of her older brother’s death in a Santa Barbara courtroom listening to his killer petition for release from a court-mandated supervision program.
On Feb. 23, 2001, David Attias drove his car into a crowd of pedestrians on an Isla Vista street and struck five people, killing Nick Bourdakis, Chris Divis, Elie Israel and Ruth Levy, and critically injuring Bert Levy.
A jury found Attias guilty of murder and then not guilty by reason of insanity.
Attias, 39, petitioned the court for restoration of sanity and unconditional release from his Department of State Hospitals community-supervision program.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Adams listened to testimony during the past two weeks and denied the petition in a ruling issued Monday.
Bourdakis attended all six days of the recent hearings in person, while her parents and some other victims’ parents later joined to watch parts of the proceedings over Zoom. She said she thought it was important to attend in person to represent the victims and their families.
“I don’t want his crime to be forgotten in the midst of all this mental health discussion, because that’s what brought us here,” she told Noozhawk.
Her family’s been following the Attias criminal court case for two decades now: the trial, then his 2012 release from the state psychiatric hospital, and now the petition for unconditional release.
“It’s constant pain for our family, but I feel like (Attias) is gradually taking steps to just move on with his life,” she said.
Her parents attended the criminal trial in 2002 — she was still in high school — and this time she’s the one who drove down from the Bay Area to attend Attias’ hearing.
Bourdakis remembers when someone from the Sheriff’s Department banged on the door of their East Bay home the morning after the killings to tell them what happened to Nick.
“I was still in my room and I just heard my dad scream,” she told Noozhawk.
It was a blur after that, she said — flying down to Santa Barbara County to meet UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang and his wife, Dilling Yang, attending a community vigil on Sabado Tarde Road, and seeing her picture on the front page of the newspaper.
It didn’t feel real at the time, she said.
“Everyone was so kind and supportive and wonderful,” she said. “I just wasn’t expecting that, and it was just … of everything that happened, that was one nice thing. People were just so kind.”
Bourdakis and her older brother, Nick, were nearly three years apart in age. In 2001, Lindsey was a junior in high school and Nick was in his sophomore year at UCSB.
“We had gotten so close right before he went away to school,” Bourdakis said about her older brother. “I was proud at high school to be like, yeah, that’s my brother, because he was funny, he had friends, he wasn’t a troublemaker.
“He was cool — he got his pilot’s license before he got his driver’s license.”
Nick’s best friend from elementary school also wound up at UCSB, and “they were like brothers reunited” and got an apartment together in Isla Vista their sophomore year, Bourdakis said.
“He was having so much fun here; he loved Santa Barbara,” she said.
“I remember the last day I talked to him a few days before it happened and it was cool, we were just shooting the shit and catching up as friends, and he was talking about possibly changing his major,” Bourdakis said. “It was an exciting time.”
Following the Criminal Case
During the rest of Bourdakis’ junior and senior years of high school, her parents were in Santa Barbara a lot for Attias’ trial. They came home to the Bay Area the day the criminal trial verdict was read, because it was the same day as Lindsey’s high school graduation party, she said.
“My mom screamed in happiness at the guilty verdicts,” she said.
After the sanity trial a few weeks later, “her bubble was popped.”
That’s where the same jury found Attias not guilty by reason of insanity, and he was sent to a state psychiatric hospital.
Attias was released from the hospital into the conditional-release program in 2012, and recently petitioned the court for unconditional release.
“I think some part of me thought that at some point there might be an apology,” Bourdakis said. “He’s never once reached out to apologize. He never said anything at the last trial.”
When asked about remorse on the stand in court last week, Attias said his program conditions prohibit him from reaching out to the victims’ families. He also said there was nothing he could say that would change anything.
His program therapist said if he wanted to reach out to them, they would help find a way where the victims’ families and Attias would be comfortable with that exchange.
“When he verbalizes that, we would have that discussion,” she said during her testimony.
During his testimony last week, Attias took responsibility for killing all five people, including Bert Levy, who died in 2016, reportedly because of his injuries.
Attorneys made closing arguments on Thursday and Adams released a written ruling on Monday.
Adams denied Attias’ petition for restoration of sanity and said the court “applauds the restorative strides that Mr. Attias has made” as well as his personal development. But he added that Attias has not reached CONREP’s highest level of support — with the fewest restrictions and supervision.
“It is the opinion of the court that Mr. Attias should continue with this treatment/support program at CONREP without prejudice to his seeking his release to the restoration of sanity at a date sometime in the future,” Adams wrote in his ruling.
Bourdakis said her family is thankful for all of the hard work that Deputy District Attorney Maggie Charles and the District Attorney’s Office did for the hearing.
— Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.