Three Men Accused in Newport Beach Murder Case Face Death Penalty

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Written By Lori Walker

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Three men have been accused of murder and other crimes related to the death of a tourist from New Zealand at Newport Beach’s Fashion Island mall. Prosecutors announced on Friday that Leroy Ernest Joseph McCrary, 26, Malachi Eddward Darnell, 18, and Jaden Cunningham, 18, face charges that could lead to the death penalty if they are convicted of special circumstances murder in the course of a robbery that resulted in the death of 68-year-old Patricia McKay.

McCrary faces additional charges of attempted robbery and reckless evading while driving, with prior convictions for burglary, criminal threats, and robbery in Los Angeles County. Darnell is charged with attempted robbery, attempted murder, and firearm-related enhancements. Cunningham faces a charge of attempted robbery.

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer extended condolences to McKay’s family and New Zealand, condemning her tragic death during what should have been a safe shopping trip. He criticized state policies that, in his view, prioritize criminals over public safety.

According to authorities, Darnell and Cunningham, masked and armed, confronted McKay and her husband outside Barnes & Noble. They threatened McKay’s husband for his watch, then turned to McKay when unsuccessful. Cunningham allegedly dragged McKay into the street, where McCrary, driving a getaway car, fatally ran her over as she tried to protect herself. McKay’s husband attempted to intervene but was forced aside, and McKay was fatally injured and pronounced dead at the scene.

Cunningham briefly fled on foot before being arrested, while McCrary and Darnell led police on a pursuit before their capture. McKay’s husband escaped serious injury during the incident.

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