3 men charged in death of New Zealand tourist in Newport Beach robbery

Prosecutors in Orange County have charged a third suspect and two other men with murder after they allegedly ran over a 68-year-old New Zealand woman with their car and dragged her nearly 60 feet during a robbery at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.

Prosecutors charged third-striker Leroy Ernest Joseph McCrary, 26, of Los Angeles; Malachi Edward Darnell, 18, also of Los Angeles; and Jaden Cunningham, 18, of Lancaster, with murder under special circumstances. They could face the death penalty if convicted of killing Patricia McKay during the commission of a robbery, with a felony aggravated count of causing the death of a person over 65. The trio were caught after leading police on a high-speed chase into L.A. County.

Tuesday’s incidents raised questions about why McCrary did not serve any prison time for his prior felony convictions.

Since 2019, California has had a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and no one has been executed since 2006.

McCrary is also charged with attempted second-degree robbery and eluding while reckless driving. He was previously convicted of the crimes of residential burglary in 2018, criminal threats in 2020 and robbery in 2023, all in L.A. County. Records show he was also convicted of drug paraphernalia in possession of a firearm in 2023.

In addition to the murder, Darnell is also charged with attempted second-degree robbery, attempted murder and personal use of a firearm, as well as a felony charge of aggravated personal use of a firearm.

In addition to murder, Cunningham is also charged with attempted second-degree robbery.

Patricia McKay and her husband Douglas McKay, a well-known Auckland businessman and leader, were waiting for a ride after shopping at Fashion Island in Newport Beach on Tuesday when a white Toyota Camry pulled up outside the mall next to the couple and two men wearing masks jumped out. One of the men pointed a gun at Douglas McKay’s head and demanded his watch as they forced him to the ground, prosecutors said.

Cunningham is accused of throwing Patricia McKay to the ground while she was holding several shopping bags, then dragging her in front of the Camry while he grabbed the bags.

Douglas McKay jumped in front of the car to stop it from running over his wife, but McCrary allegedly drove the car forward, pushed it aside and ran over the woman, dragging her body 20 metres beneath the car.

As Cunningham chased the getaway car, another man who tried to intervene gave chase. Darnell, who was now back in the car, is accused of shooting the Good Samaritan three times.

After the incident, police pursued the Camry as it sped north, reaching speeds of up to 110 mph (177 km/h). A television news helicopter captured video footage of the car racing across the left shoulder of the 105 Freeway, at one point scraping the concrete median.

Cunningham was arrested after jumping from the vehicle in the town of Cypress. McCray and Darnell were later arrested in South Gate. All three suspects were being held without bail Friday.

“Our entire community extends our deepest condolences to Patricia McKay’s loved ones and to the entire country of New Zealand as we mourn her senseless death in the commission of a crime that should never have happened,” Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said in a statement announcing the charges. “Lawlessness and violence will not be tolerated in our society.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon described Patricia McKay’s death as “an absolute tragedy” and offered his condolences to family members he knows personally. Douglas McKay is a prominent energy and business executive who was chairman of the Bank of New Zealand for many years and was the first CEO of the Aukland Council, established in 2010 for the region’s “supercity”, for three years.

In a statement, the McKay family said: “No words can express our sorrow as we try to cope with the loss of our mother, wife and friend Patricia. We ask for privacy at this time as we process this as a family.”

In 2023, McCrary pleaded guilty to robbery and drug paraphernalia in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to two years probation with three years suspended in state prison.

Asked to explain McCrary’s lack of jail time, L.A. County Dist. Atty. George Gascón said in a statement: “The case against [him] had significant evidentiary problems. As a result of these problems, the Airport Court management team approved a plea offer that allowed Mr. [McCrary] to be placed on probation with a suspended prison sentence.”

Still, Gascón’s office called the latest crimes McCrary is accused of “reprehensible.”

In announcing the charges this week, Spitzer, the Orange County district attorney, placed some of the blame on Gov. Gavin Newsom and other California Democrats.

“Our malls and shopping centers have become hunting grounds for criminals who stalk innocent shoppers to rob them blind,” he said in a statement, “because our governor and our legislature refuse to hold anyone accountable for their actions.”

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