3 suspects face capital murder charge in fatal Fashion Island armed robbery attempt

A tent was set up at Fashion Island Tuesday as Newport Beach police investigated a fatal attempted robbery.
A tent was set up near Bloomingdale’s at Fashion Island on Tuesday as Newport Beach police investigated a fatal attempted robbery.
(Susan Hoffman)
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Three men accused of carrying out a brazen attempted armed robbery at Newport Beach’s Fashion Island, then fatally running over the female victim — a 68-year-old tourist from New Zealand — have been charged with murder and other offenses.

Leroy Ernest Joseph McCrary, 26, of Compton, 18-year-old Lancaster resident Jaden Cunningham and Malachi Eddward Darnell, 18, of Los Angeles could all face the death penalty if convicted as charged, though prosecutors could pursue life sentences without the possibility of parole, the Orange County district attorney’s office announced Friday.

The charges against the three men include a special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a robbery, along with a sentencing enhancement of killing a person over age 65.


All three suspects were charged with attempted second-degree robbery. McCrary, who prosecutors said has prior convictions for residential burglary in 2018, criminal threats in 2020 and robbery in 2023, was also charged with a felony count of evading while driving recklessly, prosecutors said.

Darnell was additionally charged with attempted murder and given sentencing enhancements for his alleged personal use and discharge of a firearm.

The charges filed stem from a robbery and killing that occurred Tuesday outside the Newport Beach retail center, leaving 68-year-old Patricia McKay dead in the parking lot.

Police and prosecutors maintain Darnell and Cunningham, both wearing masks, approached McKay and her husband as they were walking outside the Barnes & Noble store at around 3:30 p.m..

One of the suspects put a gun to the head of McKay’s 69-year-old husband and demanded his watch as they forced him to the ground, according to prosecutors. When they were unable to get the watch, the men allegedly turned their attention to McKay, who was holding multiple shopping bags.

Cunningham allegedly dragged McKay into the street in front of a getaway car being driven by McCrary. Prosecutors said McKay’s husband jumped in front of the vehicle in an effort to protect his wife, but McCrary, with Darnell back in the vehicle, accelerated and forced the husband out of the way, then ran over McKay, trapping her under the vehicle and dragging her 65 feet.

Two people tried to rob a couple visiting Fashion Island mall from New Zealand, then ran over the woman with their getaway car, killing her, police say.

July 3, 2024

Still on foot at the time, Cunningham began running toward the moving vehicle while being chased by a good Samaritan. Darnell allegedly fired several shots from inside the car to deter the pursuer, although no one was struck by the gunfire, as Cunningham got into the vehicle, and the trio drove away.

The suspects led authorities on a pursuit along northbound lanes of the 405 Freeway. During the chase, the driver pulled over in the Cypress area, and Cunningham jumped out of the car but was later apprehended.

The other two suspects continued the pursuit into South Gate, where they were both eventually detained by police and arrested.

McKay was pronounced dead at the scene, police reported Tuesday. Her husband, whose identity has not been released to the public, was not seriously injured during the robbery.

In a release issued by prosecutors Friday, Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer accused state lawmakers for taking a soft stance on retail crime.

“Our entire community extends its deepest sympathies to the loved ones of Patricia McKay and to the entire country of New Zealand as we mourn her senseless death in the commission of a crime that should have never happened,” he said. “Lawlessness and violence will not be tolerated in our society.”

All three suspects are scheduled to appear in Orange County Superior Court Monday for an arraignment and bail review hearing, court records indicate.