L.A. crew targeted prominent New Zealand couple at Newport mall, ending in killing, D.A. says

Police cars behind crime-scene tape.
A crime scene is taped off at Fashion Island mall in Newport Beach after a tourist was killed in a robbery attempt on July 2.
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When Patricia “Trish” McKay and her husband, Douglas, walked out of Fashion Island last week, the New Zealand tourists had just finished a bit of shopping.

Doug McKay, an Auckland business executive, was sporting an expensive watch, and Trish was carrying bags of designer merchandise purchased from the upscale mall.

Those items attracted the attention of an armed robbery crew whose leader had been previously charged with a similar holdup and whose efforts ended in a fatal confrontation, authorities say.


The crime

As the McKays waited for their ride on the afternoon of July 2, a white Toyota Camry pulled up. Two masked men jumped out, and authorities say one put a gun to the businessman’s head, demanding his watch and forcing him to the ground.

Two law-enforcement officers stand outside.
A Newport Beach police officer, left, and an L.A. County sheriff’s deputy arrive in South Gate on July 2, where three men were arrested after a fatal robbery attempt in Newport Beach.

The other dragged Trish McKay into the street, in front of the Camry, while trying to wrest the shopping bags away from her.

By then, the Camry and its getaway driver were moving forward. Doug McKay jumped in front of the vehicle to try to save his wife. But authorities say the driver — identified by police as Leroy Ernest Joseph McCrary — ran over the woman, dragging her body 65 feet across the parking lot.

A good Samaritan, Beau Bayless, chased after the fleeing car. But police say his efforts were cut short when one of the robbers fired three shots at him.

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

Eyewitnesses immediately called 911, and within minutes, police had begun a pursuit of the Camry as it raced north toward Los Angeles County, reaching speeds of up to 110 mph. A television news helicopter captured video of the car speeding on the left shoulder of the 105 Freeway and at one point grazing the concrete median.

One of the men — later identified by police as Jaden Cunningham — was arrested after he bailed out of the vehicle in the city of Cypress. McCrary and the other suspect — identified as Malachi Eddward Darnell — were arrested later in South Gate.

Prosecutors have charged the men with murder.

The victims

Doug McKay, 69, is the former chair of the Bank of New Zealand and a prominent energy and business executive who served three years as the first chief executive of the Auckland Council, created in 2010 for the region’s “supercity.”

Prosecutors say the couple were visiting Newport Beach, a hot spot for upscale tourists and deemed one of the region’s safer cities.

The pair were friends with New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, who described the death of Trish McKay, 68, as “an absolute tragedy” and extended condolences to family and friends in a message on X.

McKay’s family is still reeling from her death. In a statement after the killing, the family said: “No words can express our sadness as we try to come to terms with the loss of our mother, wife, and friend Patricia. We ask for privacy at this time as we work through this as a family.”

In a statement issued over the weekend, a family spokesperson expressed “deep gratitude” for the support they had received in the wake of the killing and said they hoped to have McKay’s remains returned to New Zealand within the next week.

The suspects

Orange County prosecutors last week charged three men with murder with a felony enhancement in McKay’s death, making them eligible for the death penalty. California has had a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty since 2019 and has not executed anyone since 2006.

Newport Beach police take a shirtless man into custody.
Newport Beach police take into custody one of three men suspected in the slaying of Patricia McKay.

The trio — McCrary, 26, of Los Angeles; Darnell, 18, also of Los Angeles; and Cunningham, 18, of Lancaster — made brief video appearances from their cells via video links after refusing to appear in court Monday as required. The judge scheduled a new arraignment and plea hearing for Wednesday and ordered the men to appear then.

McCrary is a third-striker who had not served prison time for his most recent two felony convictions in L.A. County. He also faces charges of felony attempted second-degree robbery and evading while driving recklessly. He was previously convicted of residential burglary in 2018, criminal threats in 2020 and robbery in 2023, all in L.A. County, according to prosecutors.

In 2023, McCrary pleaded no contest to charges of robbery and being a narcotics addict in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to two years of probation with three years in state prison suspended.

He also was previously arrested in a nearly identical armed robbery. Santa Monica police said McCrary and another suspect placed a gun to the head of a man while stealing his Rolex in September 2022. He was arrested in January 2023 while in court on another case, and it was that robbery case that resulted in a suspended sentence and two years’ probation.

When asked to explain the lack of prison time for McCrary, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said in a statement: “The case against [him] had significant problems with proof. As a result of these issues, the management team at the Airport Court authorized a plea offer that allowed Mr. [McCrary] to be placed on probation with a suspended state prison sentence.”

The office called the latest crime with which McCrary has been charged “reprehensible.”

Police walk with a shirtless man in handcuffs.
Newport Beach police and Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies take into custody a man wanted in the death of Patricia McKay.

In addition to the murder charge against him, Darnell faces charges of attempted second-degree robbery, attempted murder and personal use of a firearm, as well as a felony enhancement of personal discharge of a firearm.

Cunningham is also charged with attempted second-degree robbery in addition to murder.

Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said he was particularly outraged that the crime occurred at a landmark shopping mall.

“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,” Spitzer said in a statement announcing the charges. “Lawlessness and violence will not be tolerated in our society.”