Suspects Accused of Killing Tourist at Fashion Island Could Face Death Penalty if Convicted

The three suspects in last week’s killing of a New Zealand tourist at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Calif., could face the death penalty if convicted of special circumstances murder.

Following the July 2 incident, Leroy McCrary, 26, of Los Angeles; Malachi Darnell, 18, of Los Angeles, and Jaden Cunningham, 18, of Lancaster, Calif., were arrested and remain in jail. Their arraignment was continued Wednesday until Aug. 1, due to each individual being on a medical hold, according to a spokesperson for Orange County’s district attorney Todd Spitzer.

A press release issued by his office described the incident at the open-air shopping center. Patricia McKay, 68, had been waiting for a ride with her husband outside after shopping when a white Toyota Camry pulled up and two masked men jumped out and attacked McKay’s 69-year-old husband, putting a gun to his head and demanding his watch. The suspects then were said to have forced him to the ground as bystanders ran away.

When the suspects were unable to get his property, Cunningham allegedly attacked McKay, who had been carrying several shopping bags. He is accused of throwing McKay to the ground and dragging her into the street in front of the getaway car. Cunningham allegedly stole her shopping bags.

When McKay was lying on the ground in front of the Camry, her husband jumped in front of the vehicle to try to prevent her from being run over. McCrary is accused of accelerating the Camry with Darnell in the vehicle, running over McKay and dragging her body 65 feet. Running to catch up to the car, Cunningham was pursued by an unidentified Good Samaritan, who attempted to stop him from getting back in the vehicle. Darnell is accused of firing shots.

In addition to the special circumstances murder charge, McCrary has been charged with one felony count of attempted second-degree robbery, and one felony count of evading while driving recklessly. McCrary has prior felony convictions for residential burglary in 2018, criminal threats in 2020, and robbery in 2023, all in Los Angeles County, according to Spitzer’s office.

Darnell has also been charged with one felony count of second-degree attempted robbery, one felony count of attempted murder, and one felony enhancement of personal use of a firearm and one felony enhancement of personal discharge of a firearm. Cunningham has also been charged with one felony count of attempted second-degree robbery.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Christoper Luxon shared his condolences with McKay’s family “after the devastating loss of Trish” via the social media platform X. McKay’s 69-year-old husband Doug was reportedly the former chairman of the Bank of New Zealand.

Media requests to Fashion Island and its owner the Irvine Co. were unreturned at press time Wednesday. However, an Irvine spokesperson acknowledged a media request Wednesday evening.

On Tuesday, Fashion Island’s general manager Gerard Widder posted on the company’s site, “Fashion Island joins with the Newport Beach community to offer our heartfelt condolences to the McKay family. They will remain in our hearts and thoughts. We are also grateful to the Newport Beach Police Department’s rapid response to this senseless crime and we will continue to support local authorities in their investigation.” There was also an image of typed condolences for “Mrs. Patricia McKay” from Fashion Island and its merchant community that was displayed in a frame beside an all-white floral display placed outdoors near a planter.

As Orange County’s leading shopping center, Fashion Island houses such retailers as Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, AG, Allbirds and Dick’s Sporting Goods, as well as restaurants and other businesses.

In a press release, Spitzer said,  “Our shopping centers and malls have become hunting grounds for criminals who are stalking innocent shoppers to rob them blind because our governor [Gavin Newsom] and our legislature refuse to hold anyone accountable for their actions. Actions have consequences and it shouldn’t have to result in the death of an elderly woman just enjoying a day of shopping with her husband for our elected leaders in Sacramento to realize that this is the product of their soft-on-crime policies which encourage criminality while sacrificing public safety. This is Orange County and we refuse to accept this is the new normal. Criminals will be held accountable and violence will never be acceptable.”

In the past two months in New York City, there have been a handful of incidents where individuals have been targeted by robbers for their luxury watches while dining in restaurants like Carbone, Birds of a Feather and Marlow & Sons. Media inquiries to those businesses were unreturned Wednesday.

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