DUI driver guilty of murder in death of Costa Mesa fire captain could face life in prison
A Mission Viejo man was found guilty of second-degree murder in the November 2018 death of an off-duty Costa Mesa fire captain on Wednesday, and could face 15 years to life in prison, prosecutors confirmed.
Stephen Taylor Scarpa, 28, appeared in a Santa Ana courtroom Wednesday, where jurors delivered a guilty verdict after just hours of deliberation over a two-day period, court records indicate.
Scarpa will appear again in court Dec. 10, where he will be sentenced.
The verdict stems from an early morning collision that took place Nov. 3, 2018, near the juncture of Alicia Parkway and Via Burgos in Mission Viejo.
Scarpa, who’d gone days without sleep and had reportedly ingested multiple drugs at a party earlier that morning, lost control of the minivan he was driving, crossed over a curb and sidewalk and struck 44-year-old Rancho Santa Margarita resident Mike Kreza.
A father of three who’d served 18 years with the Costa Mesa Fire Department, Kreza was riding a bicycle at the time of the collision and died two days later from severe injuries he’d sustained. Attorneys for the prosecution and the defense painted two different pictures of the morning’s events.
Orange County Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Daniel Feldman told jurors Scarpa had been in previous DUI incidents and was warned of the dangers of driving under the influence.
He relayed how, as a high school senior, Scarpa participated in a days-long “Every 15 Minutes” program that delivered dire warnings about the consequences of such behavior.
Defense attorney Rudolph Loewenstein, however, described Scarpa as an overly tired person who simply wanted to go home and get some rest and was nearly at the end of a 25-mile drive when the perfect storm of unfortunate events unfolded in the span of seconds.
Jurors deliberated for just 30 minutes on Tuesday, City News Service reported, and resumed their deliberations Wednesday morning. A court register of actions showed the panel convened at 9 a.m. Wednesday and had reached a unanimous verdict by 11 a.m.
Did Stephen Taylor Scarpa act with malice on Nov. 3, 2018 when, not having slept for days and with drugs in his system, he drove home from a party? Attorneys presented two answers in opening remarks Monday.
Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said in a statement Wednesday Kreza mattered to his loved ones, his CMFD co-workers, the D.A.’s office and to the community he served and lamented the number of lives unnecessarily lost to DUI driving.
“No child should have to be told that their daddy isn’t coming home because of the selfish decision of someone to get behind the wheel while under the influence,” he said.
“This defendant knew about the dangers of driving under the influence. He ignored those warnings, he killed a human being, and now he’s a convicted murderer.”
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