Three accused in Fashion Island tourist’s murder make first court appearance – Orange County Register

Three Los Angeles County men accused of an attempted armed robbery on Fashion Island that left a 68-year-old New Zealand woman dragged to her death under a getaway car made their first appearance Wednesday afternoon in Orange County Superior Court.

During a brief hearing in a Santa Ana courtroom, Leroy Ernest Joseph McCrary, 26, Malachi Eddward Darnell, 18, and Jaden Cunningham, 18, spoke with their attorneys as they stood in holding cells and greeted family members in the gallery but did not enter formal pleas.

The three men were charged with special murder after prosecutors alleged they killed Patricia McKay during a robbery. That gives prosecutors the option of life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

McKay and her husband were attacked while waiting to be picked up outside the upscale shopping centre around 3.30pm on Tuesday 2nd July.

A white Toyota Camry allegedly pulled up next to the couple and two masked men — who prosecutors say were Darnell and Cunningham — jumped out. Prosecutors say one of the masked men pointed a gun at McKay’s husband’s head, forced him to the bed and demanded his watch.

Prosecutors say Cunningham grabbed the bags McKay was holding, knocking her to the ground and dragging her across the street in front of the Camry.

Despite the husband’s attempts to protect McKay, prosecutors say McCrary knocked McKay down and dragged her body 65 feet.

According to prosecutors, Darnell got back in the getaway car, but Cunningham ran toward the Camry, trying to catch up with him.

Beau Bayless, a Fountain Valley man who was visiting a former co-worker at the mall, tried to stop Cunningham by hitting him with a clothesline and knocking them both to the ground. Bayless later recalled that he had his hands on Cunningham’s shoulder and sweatshirt when a bullet grazed his head.

Prosecutors say Darnell fired the shot, but Bayless was not hit. McCrary slowed down briefly, prosecutors say, allowing Cunningham to jump into the car.

Officers spotted the Camry on the northbound 405 Freeway. Cunningham, a Lancaster resident, was arrested after authorities said he escaped from the car in Cypress. McCrary and Darnell, both Los Angeles residents, were arrested when the chase ended in South Gate.

McCrary has previous convictions in Los Angeles County for residential burglary, criminal threats and theft.

The three men are currently being held without bail. They are due back in court on August 1.

At the request of defense attorneys, Orange County Superior Court Judge Andre Manssourian asked the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to explain why Cunningham, McCrary and Darnell were not in court for scheduled arraignments Friday and Monday. The sheriff’s department did not immediately provide Manssourian with an explanation.

Authorities said at the time that the men were in “medical custody.” One of the defense attorneys denied published reports that the men had refused to leave their cells to be transported from the jail to court.

Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill attended Wednesday’s hearing, explaining afterward that he was there to represent the McKays and the community. McKay’s husband is a prominent Auckland businessman and former chairman of the Bank of New Zealand and Eden Park Trust. The mayor said the couple were visiting family when the fatal attack occurred.

The mayor said it was the responsibility of the police department and the city council to “make sure that we step up and make sure that people not only feel safe when they come into our community, but that they are actually safe…

“Newport Beach is one of the safest cities in the world, but we still face tragedies like this,” O’Neill said. “We have to do better.”