Men accused of killing woman in OC mall robbery appear in court – NBC Los Angeles

What to Know

  • A 68-year-old woman visiting Southern California from New Zealand was hit and killed by a getaway car in a robbery attempt at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.
  • One of the suspects held a gun to the head of the woman’s husband and demanded his watch before turning his attention to Patricia McKay, prosecutors said.
  • Witness described a chaotic scene with one of the suspects firing a handgun from the getaway car.

Three men charged in the death of a New Zealand woman in an attempted robbery last week at a Newport Beach shopping mall appeared Wednesday in court to face murder and other charges.

Leroyernest Joseph McCrary, 26, of Compton; Jaden Cunningham, 18, of Lancaster; and Malachi Eddward Darnell, 18, of Los Angeles, made their first court appearance on charges in the death of 68-year-old Patricia McKay. The suspects, appearing in a secured area and wearing orange jumpsuits, did not speak during the brief court proceeding.

Arraignment was continued to Aug. 1.

The suspects were charged Friday with murder, including a special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a robbery, along with a sentencing enhancement of killing a person over age 65.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office will decide later whether to seek death sentences in the case, or life without the possibility of parole.

McKay was killed when she was struck and killed by the suspects’ getaway car as they left the scene of the crime at Fashion Island in the area of Santa Rosa Drive and Newport Center Drive. The woman’s husband, an Auckland businessman, was not injured.

In a news release issued Friday, prosecutors provided more details about the deadly timeline of events Tuesday outside the mall.

Darnell and Cunningham, both wearing masks, approached McKay and her husband as they were walking outside the Barnes & Noble store, according to police and prosecutors. One of the suspects held a gun to the head of McKay’s 69-year-old husband and demanded his watch as they forced him to the ground. When they were unable to get the watch, the suspects turned their attention to Patricia McKay, who was holding shopping bags, prosecutors said.

A 68-year-old woman visiting from New Zealand was identified as the victim killed in an attempted robbery Tuesday at a Newport Beach shopping mall. Camilla Rambaldi reports for the NBC4 News at 4 p.m., Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Cunningham allegedly dragged McKay into the street in front of a getaway car being driven by McCrary. Prosecutors said McKay’s husband jumped in front of the vehicle in an effort to protect his wife, but McCrary, with Darnell back in the vehicle, accelerated and forced the husband out of the way, then ran over McKay, trapping her under the vehicle and dragging her 65 feet, according to the news release.

Cunningham was running toward the moving car with a witness chasing him when Darnell fired several shots from inside the car, prosecutors said. Cunningham eventually got into the car and the three suspect left the scene.

No one was struck by gunfire, police said.

A chase ensued after the three men in the white sedan failed to yield for a traffic stop. One suspect got out of the car in Cypress, but was eventually taken into custody. The other two men were arrested after they abandoned the car in Los Angeles County.

McCrary, who prosecutors said has prior convictions for residential burglary in 2018, criminal threats in 2020 and robbery in 2023, also was charged with felony counts of attempted second-degree robbery and evading while driving recklessly, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Darnell was additionally charged with second-degree attempted robbery and attempted murder, along with a sentencing enhancement allegation of personal use of a firearm and person discharge of a firearm.

Cunningham was also charged with attempted second-degree robbery.

Leaders in New Zealand and others expressed grief after learning of McKay’s death. The New Zealand Herald identified husband Doug McKay as a prominent Auckland businessman and published a statement from the grieving family.

“No words can express our sadness as we try to come to terms with the loss of our mother, wife, and friend Patricia,” the family said in its statement. We ask for privacy at this time as we work through this as a family.”

The country’s prime minister called McKay’s death a devastating loss.

“My thoughts are with the McKay family after the devastating loss of Trish,” New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said in a post on X. “They’re great people and my heart goes out to Doug, their family and all those who knew Trish.”

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