A California man with three prior DUI convictions and wanted on warrants in two separate DUI cases hit and killed a senior citizen while drunk and is now charged with murder, authorities said.
Around 4 p.m. April 10, Costa Mesa police responded to a hit-and-run crash. “Witnesses reported the victim was attempting to stop the driver of a silver Chevy Malibu from leaving the scene when he was struck, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
The driver, later identified as Stewart Leacky Waithanji, 28, allegedly continued driving and “was arrested a short time later in the parking lot of a Los Alamitos bar,” officials said.
Police took a passenger in Waithanji’s vehicle into custody on suspicion of being an accessory to a crime, but no charges have been filed against her, The Los Angeles Times reported.
The 74-year-old victim, a resident of Newport Beach, was rushed to a local hospital, where he died.
“The life of a human being is not something to be discarded and thrown away; a life is something to be celebrated, treasured, and lived to the very fullest,” OC D.A. Todd Spitzer said. “Yet, a 74-year-old man was left for dead in the middle of the street, tossed aside as if he never mattered, because of the selfish decision of a stranger to get behind the wheel while intoxicated.”
Waithanji was charged with one felony count each of murder, DUI, DUI with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher and two misdemeanor counts of hit-and-run.
He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on all charges.
According to the Orange County D.A.’s Office, at the time of the fatal accident, Waithanji was wanted on warrants stemming from two 2019 DUI cases. He also has three prior DUI convictions in Iowa from 2016 and 2017.
Spitzer said the victim’s “life may not have mattered to the driver who left him for dead, but it matters to me and it matters to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office,” and he promised to “fight for justice for him and everyone who loved him."