Three Suspects in New Zealand Tourist’s Murder Denied Bail

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Three men were ordered held without bail during a court appearance in Santa Ana, following their charges in the murder of Patricia “Trish” McKay, a 68-year-old woman from New Zealand. The incident, involving a lethal robbery attempt at Fashion Island mall in Newport Beach, led to McKay being fatally dragged.

The defendants, Leroy Ernest Joseph McCrary, 26, Malachi Eddward Darnell, 18, both from Los Angeles, and Jaden Cunningham, 18, from Lancaster, could face the death penalty under special circumstances alleged in the murder during the commission of a robbery. The charge is further intensified by a felony enhancement given the victim’s age. Despite no executions since 2006, California’s death penalty moratorium has been in place since 2019.

During the court proceedings, where the trio appeared in orange jail attire and behind a metal screen, they opted to defer their pleas until August 1. Darnell notably gestured to someone in the audience with a blown kiss.

Prosecutors describe McCrary as the ringleader of the armed robbery and allege he drove the car that dragged McKay. His extensive criminal history includes convictions for threats, firearm possession as a narcotics user, and a past robbery involving a firearm. Despite his repeated offenses, McCrary evaded imprisonment in one instance by a suspended sentence agreement.

Additional charges among the defendants include attempted robbery and murder, with Cunningham and Darnell facing accusations involving personal firearm use.

The fatal robbery unfolded on July 2 when McKay and her husband, prominent Auckland businessman Douglas McKay, were attacked while awaiting their ride outside the mall. After a confrontation that started with an armed threat and physical assault on Douglas McKay, Trish McKay was forcibly dragged by the Camry in a struggle over her shopping bags, leading to her death under the vehicle.

The high-speed escape that followed involved a chase both by witnesses and police through Los Angeles County, eventually leading to the capture of all three suspects.

The community and officials, including Orange County Dist. Atty.

Todd Spitzer and New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, have expressed deep condolences and outrage over the brutal incident. The McKay family has requested privacy as they grieve the devastating loss of Trish McKay.

(This article includes information originally reported by the Los Angeles Times.)


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