A Kenyan man based in Costa Mesa man with a long history of drunk driving has been arrested on suspicion of murder following a DUI hit-and-run collision on Newport Boulevard Saturday that caused the death of a 74-year-old Newport Beach resident
28-year old Stewart Leacky Waithanji is facing one count of felony murder, along with two felony charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and two misdemeanor charges related to property damage caused during the collision.
Waithanji was driving with a female passenger when they collided with another vehicle. The driver of that vehicle — identified Tuesday by the Orange County district attorney’s office as Richard Frost, 74, of Newport Beach — died from injuries sustained during the collision.
Fyad said the passenger in Waithanji’s vehicle was arrested by Costa Mesa police on suspicion of being an accessory to a crime, but the D.A.’s office has not yet filed charges against her.
In a criminal complaint filed Tuesday, prosecutors maintained Waithanji had committed three separate violations of willful or wanton disregard for people’s safety in a 10-year period.
Court records maintained by the state of Iowa indicate three previous convictions for first-, second-and third-degree DUI offenses committed in January and May of 2016 and November 2017, respectively.
D.A. spokeswoman Kimberly Edds confirmed Waithanji is also a named suspect in two prior DUI-related offenses currently pending in Orange County Superior Court.
On Sept. 27, 2019, he was reportedly arrested for stealing a vehicle and was accused of felony vandalism causing damage of $400 or more during what Edds described as a hit-and-run incident.
Waithanji is also facing misdemeanor charges from a second hit-and-run incident Edds said occurred on Oct. 12, 2019. He is accused of driving under the influence, having a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit, and causing property damage.
Edds said those two cases were still pending and, as such, do not count as prior convictions.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Orange County District Atty. Todd Spitzer explained the decision to pursue a murder charge against Waithanji.
“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,” Spitzer said.
“His 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,” he continued. “And we will fight for justice for him and everyone who loved him.”
Inmate records maintained by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office indicate Waithanji, whose occupation is listed as “server,” was being held at the Intake Release Center in Santa Ana on $1 million bail.