Suspect arrested in fatal wrong-way crash in Newport Beach in 2019


The suspect in a wrong-way collision that killed a woman last year on the 73 Freeway has been arrested by U.S. Marshals after being declared a fugitive.

Luke Burnicle Fitch, 24, of Newport Beach was arrested June 11 in Whitefish, Mont., on suspicion of murder and assault with a deadly weapon, the California Highway Patrol said Wednesday.

Investigators say Fitch was behind the wheel of a southbound Mercedes-Benz on June 5, 2019, when he entered the northbound 73 headed south near Birch Street in Newport and struck a BMW head on. The BMW’s driver, 64-year-old Arda Gulesserian of Corona del Mar, died. The woman’s nephew identified her as Arda Melikyan, according to KTLA.

A Lexus then collided with the Mercedes, but nobody in the Lexus was hurt.

Fitch was seriously injured.

CHP officials said around the time of the crash that the Mercedes was speeding on the freeway at more than 100 mph before slamming into the BMW, and troopers were investigating whether Fitch intentionally sped into the northbound lanes. Troopers also said witnesses called authorities shortly before the crash to report a silver Mercedes driving erratically on city streets.

“Based on the way he drove onto the freeway, we have to treat it as if it looks like an intentional act,” CHP Sgt. Todd Kovaletz said at the time.


According to Orange County Superior Court records, a warrant was issued for Fitch’s arrest on June 4 on one count of murder and two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

Jail records from Flathead County in Montana listed him as a fugitive from justice. He was not listed in the Orange County Sheriff’s online jail records as of Wednesday evening.

Previously, Fitch pleaded no contest to misdemeanor hit and run with property damage in April 2019 and guilty to speeding in 2014. He was also cited for speeding in 2013 and completed traffic school.

Davis writes for the Daily Pilot.