Men accused of murdering 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 struck and killed by a getaway car during an attempted robbery at Fashion Island in Newport Beach.
  • Prosecutors say one of the suspects pointed a gun at the woman’s husband’s head and demanded his watch, then turned his attention to Patricia McKay.
  • A witness described a chaotic scene in which one of the suspects fired a firearm from the getaway car.

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

Leroyernest Joseph McCrary, 26, of Compton; Jaden Cunningham, 18, of Lancaster; and Malachi Edward Darnell, 18, of Los Angeles, made their initial court appearances on charges in the death of 68-year-old Patricia McKay. The defendants, who appeared in a secure room and wore orange jumpsuits, did not speak during the brief trial.

The summons was postponed until August 1.

The suspects were charged Friday with murder, including a special circumstance of murder during the commission of a robbery, along with an enhanced sentence for killing a person over 65.

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

McKay was killed when she was struck and killed by the suspects’ getaway car as they left the scene of the crime on 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 press release issued Friday, prosecutors provided more details about the deadly events Tuesday outside the mall.

Darnell and Cunningham, both wearing masks, approached McKay and her husband as they walked outside the Barnes & Noble store, police and prosecutors said. One of the suspects held a gun to McKay’s 69-year-old husband’s head and demanded his watch as they forced him to the ground. When they couldn’t 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 has been identified as the victim killed Tuesday during an attempted robbery at a Newport Beach shopping mall. Camilla Rambaldi reports for NBC4 News at 4 p.m., Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Cunningham allegedly dragged McKay into the street in front of a getaway car driven by McCrary. Prosecutors said McKay’s husband jumped in front of the vehicle 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, pinning her under the vehicle and dragging her 65 feet, the news release said.

Cunningham ran toward the moving car with a witness following him as Darnell fired multiple shots from inside the vehicle, prosecutors said. Cunningham eventually got into the car and the three suspects left the scene.

According to police, no one was hit by the gunfire.

A chase ensued after the three men in the white sedan failed to yield to a traffic stop. One suspect exited the car in Cypress but was eventually arrested. The other two men were arrested after abandoning the car in Los Angeles County.

McCrary, who prosecutors say has prior convictions for residential burglary in 2018, criminal threats in 2020 and theft in 2023, was also charged with felony counts of attempted robbery in the second degree and eluding while reckless driving, the DA’s office said. Darnell was also charged with attempted robbery in the second degree and attempted murder, along with aggravated assault charges for personal use of a firearm and personal discharge of a firearm.

Cunningham was also charged with attempted second-degree robbery.

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

“No words can express our sorrow as we continue to cope with the loss of our mother, wife and friend Patricia,” the family said in their statement. “We ask for your privacy at this time as we process 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 message on X. “They are wonderful people and my condolences go out to Doug, their family and everyone who knew Trish.”