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3 accused of murdering tourist at Fashion Island make first court appearance



3 accused of murdering tourist at Fashion Island make first court appearance

Three Los Angeles County men accused of carrying out an attempted armed robbery at Fashion Island in which a 68-year-old New Zealand woman was dragged to her death under a getaway car made their first appearances on 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 while standing in holding cells and waved to family members in the gallery, but did not enter formal pleas.

The three men have been charged with special circumstances murder after prosecutors allege they killed Patricia McKay during the commission of a robbery. That gives prosecutors the option of pursuing either life without the possibility of parole or the death penalty.

McKay and her husband were attacked while waiting to be picked up outside the upscale shopping center around 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 2.

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

Prosecutors allege that Cunningham grabbed bags that McKay was holding, throwing her to the ground in the process and dragging her into the street in front of the Camry.

Despite the husband’s attempts to shield McKay, prosecutors allege that McCrary ran McKay over and dragged her body 65 feet.

According to prosecutors, Darnell had made his way back into the getaway car, but Cunningham was running toward the Camry, trying to catch up.

Beau Bayless, a Fountain Valley man who was visiting a former co-worker at the mall, attempted to stop Cunningham, “clotheslining” him and taking them both the ground. Bayless later recalled having his hands on Cunningham’s shoulder and sweatshirt when a bullet went past his head.

Prosecutors allege that Darnell had fired the gunshot, which did not strike Bayless. McCrary briefly slowed down, 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 say he bailed out of 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 robbery.

All three men are currently being held without bail. They are scheduled to return to court on Aug. 1.

On the urging 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 brought to court for scheduled arraignments on Friday and Monday. The Sheriff’s Department didn’t immediately provide an explanation to Manssourian.

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

Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill attended Wednesday’s court hearing, explaining afterward that he was there to represent the McKays and the community. McKay’s husband is a prominent Auckland businessman and the former board chairman of the Bank of New Zealand and Eden Park Trust. The mayor said the couple was 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 we are stepping up and making sure people not only feel safe coming to our community but actually are safe…

“Newport Beach is one of the safest communities in the world, but we still have tragedy like this,” O’Neill said. “We’ve got to do better.”

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