Trial ordered for man accused of driving off Sunset Cliff with daughters in truck

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A man accused of intentionally driving a pickup off Sunset Cliffs into the ocean with his twin toddlers inside was ordered today to stand trial on charges that include attempted murder.

Robert Brians, 48, is accused of abducting his twin 2-year-old daughters from his parents' home on June 13, 2020, then speeding off a cliff into the waters below.

About 4:30 a.m. that day, the toddlers' mother called 911 to report that Brians had taken their children without permission.

At Brians' preliminary hearing in a downtown San Diego courtroom, she testified that after Brians allegedly took the children, she exchanged several text messages with him as she tried to ascertain their whereabouts.

She testified that Brians repeatedly sent messages indicating that he was planning to drive off a cliff in his truck while his girls were inside.

One message he sent her read, "The girls are going to Heaven and I'm going to Hell to wait for you."

San Diego police Detective Aletha Lennier testified that three minutes prior to driving off the cliff, Brians made a Facebook post that read in part, "Tonight, I'm sending my babies to Heaven."

Though Brians' wife initially believed he was planning to drive off the Coronado Bridge, police were able to locate him in the Sunset Cliffs area by tracking his cellphone, according to preliminary hearing testimony.

Around 5 a.m., SDPD Lt. David Bautista spotted the truck on Hill Street, near Sunset Cliffs Boulevard, where he testified the truck sped off westbound and went careening over the side of the cliff, landing upside down in the water.

San Diego Police K-9 Officer Jonathan Wiese, who rappelled down the cliff using a 100-foot dog leash, testified that he found Brians floating in the water and holding both girls in his arms. One of the girls was crying and holding onto Brians' neck, while the other was limp and seemingly lifeless, according to Wiese, who also testified that Brians was making angry statements about the girls' mother and an ex-wife.

The officer said he helped propel Brians to shore by swimming behind him and pushing him through the water. Wiese's rescue efforts earned him a National Carnegie Medal, which recognizes acts of heroism, and the declaration of an official "Jonathan Wiese Day" in the city of San Diego.

Brians and the girls were hospitalized.
Lennier testified that both girls sustained numerous injuries including abrasions and lacerations, though one of the girls was much more seriously hurt, sustaining a brain bleed and compression fractures to her vertebrae.

Brians remains held without bail and is due back in court Dec. 16.

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