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Kayla Gerdes describes addiction that led to deadly Hempstead crash

Kayla Gerdes speaks at Family & Children's

Kayla Gerdes speaks at Family & Children's Association Open House and addresses substance abuse on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016 in Hempstead.  When Kayla  was 18 years old, she struck and killed Rebecca Twine, a 69 year old Hempstead resident. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Freeport woman — driving while high on narcotics and pot in 2010 when she struck and killed a physician mowing her Hempstead lawn — said Thursday she has kicked a drug addiction.

And now Kayla Gerdes, 24, is urging other addicts to do the same.

Gerdes told a gathering at a Hempstead social service agency Thursday about her drug dependence on the day in April 2010 she ran over Dr. Rebecca Twine-Wright.

What followed for Gerdes was more than two years of court hearings before her July 2012 sentence and incarceration.

Her battle with drug addiction and its life-altering consiquences should serve as a cautionary tale for others in similar circumstances, Gerdes said.

“I think it’s important to share my story no matter how dark, ugly or painful it might be for other people to hear it or for me to relive it,” Gerdes told an audience of close to 100 at an open house held in Hempstead by the Family & Children’s Association. “because if there is a person right now in that same state of mind . . . they can see who I am now.”

Gerdes said she said she earned a college degree and has been sober for the past five years.

She described herself said as “a selfish person” on the spring day she jumped a curb in a van and killed Twine-Wright, but “I wasn’t a mean person.”

She said she “took somebody’s life because I was high on drugs and driving a vehicle.”

Gerdes pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and other charges in 2012 and a judge sentenced her to 3 to 9 years in prison. She was released on parole last October after serving more than three years in prison, according to state records

Gerdes told the Hempstead group she was using alcohol and marijuana by the time she was 11. She said she often fought with her parents and eventually went to live in a group home. She also described sleeping under an elevated train in Brooklyn after a drug spree.

At her sentencing in July 2012, Gerdes apologized to Twine-Wright’s son, Chauncey Twine, and told him she would trade her life “to give your mother back her life.”

Twine refused at the time to accept her apology. More than four years later, Gerdes’ life is on the upswing but Twine, 36, of Roslyn Heights, was still not ready to forgive.

“Forgiveness is more than just a word. It’s actions,” Twine said Thursday. “It would take a very, very long, concerted effort for her to earn forgiveness. I hope she’s turned her life around. It doesn’t benefit anybody for her to continue to do drugs.”


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