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Man involved in deadly Grove Avenue crash said he wanted to fly

Posted at 2:44 PM, Apr 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-04-17 18:44:24-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Robert Stevens Gentil told police he wanted to fly as he sped down Grove Avenue Monday afternoon and crashed into a woman's car, according to people familiar with the case. Gentil's attorney Ted Bruns said his client had a history of manic episodes and his medical condition contributed to Monday's fatal crash. Gentil, 32, appeared in court Friday morning via video. He is charged with felony involuntary manslaughter in the death of noted diplomat, historian and author Elizabeth Brown Pryor.

Gentil's family released a statement Friday afternoon saying they were heartbroken over the accident.

The tragic events that led to the death of Ms. Elizabeth Pryor have broken the hearts of her family, colleagues, and students. And they have broken our hearts, as well. We join the extended Pryor family and the University of Richmond family in mourning her death and offer our sincerest condolences and prayers. Their loss is our loss, and one we will feel deeply, forever.

Our family member, Robert Gentil, will be held accountable to this community. In time, the community will learn that the events giving rise to this tragedy were not the product of conscious, reckless conduct, nor were the consequences fueled by alcohol or drugs. Rather they were the culmination of a mental health condition with which Robert and his family have struggled for a decade and believed had appropriately addressed. We know this reality will not lessen the loss of Ms. Pryor or diminish the pain of her absence. It may, though, place in a more understandable context this unforeseeable tragedy.

With Deepest Sorrow,
The Gentil Family

Robert S. Gentil (PHOTO: Richmond Police)

Robert S. Gentil (PHOTO: Richmond Police)

Gentil's Mitsubishi Outlander was traveling 80-90 miles per hour when it struck Pryor's car Monday afternoon. Pryor was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. Gentil's vehicle then jumped the median, ran through a fence and struck the front of a home.  He was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Bruns said his client remained bumped, bruised and battered.

Grove Avenue accident

During Monday's hearing, the judge granted Gentil $50,000 bond. As part of the bond, the judge took Gentil's driver's license and ordered him to see a psychiatrist. He must also wear an electronic monitoring device and live with his parents, at least until his June preliminary hearing.

Richmond prosecutor Christine Cestaro said she objected to Gentil being released on bond. She declined to comment on the specifics of the case.

Bruns said he viewed Monday's crash less as a crime, and more as a medical issue. He said Gentil, a Richmond school teacher, had suffered from  manic episodes in the past and took medication to control the condition.

The name Robert Stevens Gentil appeared several times over the years in local courts due to various driving infractions:

  • Speeding in Richmond in 2008 and 2009
  • Speeding, seat belt violations and improper driving in Henrico in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011
  • Speeding in Hanover in 2010
  • Speeding in Louisa in 2009

A funeral service for Elizabeth Brown Pryor is scheduled for Monday afternoon at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on East Grace Street in Richmond. The service is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.