Death Penalty Possible for Newport Beach Killing of New Zealand Woman

(Bloomberg) -- California prosecutors plan to weigh seeking the death penalty in connection with the killing of a woman in a robbery attempt outside an upscale shopping mall in Newport Beach, California. 

Patricia and Doug McKay, ex-chair of Bank of New Zealand and former chief executive officer of the Auckland Council, were standing outside the Fashion Island shopping center on July 2 when two men approached them at gunpoint. 

One of the suspects dragged Patricia McKay into the street, in front of their getaway car, while trying to wrestle away her shopping bags. The car’s driver was moving forward and ran over McKay, dragging her body 65 feet (20 meters) across the parking lot.

Orange County prosecutors brought felony charges against three Southern California men, Leroy Ernest Joseph McCrary, 26; Malachi Eddward Darnell, 18; and Jaden Cunningham, 18, following the fatal incident. They are scheduled to appear at an arraignment and plea hearing Wednesday.

McCrary has prior felony convictions for residential burglary in 2018, criminal threats in 2020, and robbery in 2023, all in Los Angeles County, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement. There are no other suspects at large, according to the district attorney’s office.

The Wednesday hearing was scheduled after the three men defied Judge Andre Manssourian’s orders to appear in court on Monday, refusing to leave their jail cells to face charges of special-circumstances murder.

The district attorney’s office said it will convene a special circumstances committee after the preliminary hearing to determine whether to pursue the death penalty. California hasn’t executed anyone since 2006, and the state instituted a moratorium on the death penalty in 2019.

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

(Updates with information on death penalty in first paragraph.)

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