Judge orders release of woman charged in death of popular SF grocer

Eleasia Fraise, 20, allegedly fled the scene after striking Konstantinos “Gus” Vardakastanis in 2017

Konstantinos “Gus” Vardakastanis (Courtesy photo)

The 20-year-old woman charged in the fatal hit-and-run of a popular San Francisco grocery store owner will be released from jail pending trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Eleasia Fraise was arrested in Stockton last Tuesday for allegedly striking Konstantinos “Gus” Vardakastanis, 56, in the Bayview on Sept. 22, 2017.

Vardakastanis ran a small chain of grocery stores including Haight-Ashbury Produce. He was reportedly out shopping for produce when the vehicle struck him.

In her first court appearance, Fraise pleaded not guilty to four charges including felony vehicular manslaughter and felony leaving the scene of an accident.

Fraise is the mother of three, including a 10-month-old child, according to her attorney Alexandria Carl.

Carl asked San Francisco Superior Court Judge Rita Lin to release her client, arguing that Fraise has a limited rap sheet of only one misdemeanor conviction for resisting arrest.

“She is attending school and furthering her education,” Carl said.

But Assistant District Attorney Archie Wong argued that Fraise should be held on $50,000 bail, noting that the conviction happened in April 2018 — after the fatal collision.

Lin decided that Fraise would be released under several conditions, including that she not drive a vehicle and check in by phone.

“I do believe that this case is an extremely serious case — somebody died,” Lin said. “At the same time I recognize that Ms. Fraise had no significant criminal history.”

Lin said Fraise does not have a driver’s license. She has been charged with misdemeanor driving without a license.

“She should really not have been driving the day of the incident,“ Lin said.

Authorities have released few details in the case but Wong revealed Wednesday that there are three co-defendants also charged in the incident. Their involvement was not immediately clear.

Among the charges Fraise is facing is felony arson. Alex Bastian, a spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, said the charge is for the arson of a vehicle.

Fraise is due back in court Aug. 12, when her case is expected to be merged with the additional defendants.


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Eleasia Fraise, 20, of San Francisco (Courtesy SFPD)

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