Man charged with murder in death of off-duty Calif. firefighter

Prosecutors accused Stephen Taylor Scarpa of driving under the influence of a controlled substance when his van collided with Mike Kreza

By Alma Fausto and Sean Emery
The Orange County Register

COSTA MESA, Calif. — A Mission Viejo man suspected of DUI was charged with murder Tuesday, three days after his van struck and killed an off-duty Costa Mesa fire captain out for a weekend morning bike ride.

Prosecutors accused Stephen Taylor Scarpa, 25, of driving under the influence of a controlled substance early Saturday morning when his van collided with Mike Kreza, 44, who was cycling along Alicia Parkway in Mission Viejo. Scarpa allegedly drove “into the bike lane, onto the sidewalk” before striking Kreza’s bicycle, officials said.

Capt. Mike Kreza was killed when he was struck by a van while cycling. (Photo/GoFundMe)
Capt. Mike Kreza was killed when he was struck by a van while cycling. (Photo/GoFundMe)

Investigators also said they found prescription medications inside Scarpa’s van after the crash. A sheriff’s drug recognition expert evaluated Scarpa and he was arrested at the scene.

Stephen Scarpa was charged with murder three days after his van struck and killed Capt. Mike Kreza. (Photo/Orange County District Attorney’s Office)

Scarpa was being held in lieu of $1 million bail. His arraignment, originally set for Tuesday, was postponed until Nov. 30.

In a criminal complaint filed Monday, prosecutors allege Scarpa acted unlawfully and “with malice aforethought,” the legal term used to describe a criminal act deliberately planned to cause harm. Specific details on what prompted prosecutors to bring a murder charge, rather than a lesser felony, were not immediately known.

There was no indication that Scarpa has any prior DUI convictions in Orange County, according to a search of court records.

Scarpa appeared during a brief hearing Tuesday sporting a buzz cut and he held his hands in his pockets, answering “Yes, sir” when asked by the judge if he understood that his arraignment was being postponed. An Orange County public defender represented him during the hearing.

Kreza, a longtime veteran and captain with Costa Mesa Fire & Rescue, was found badly injured and unconscious Saturday morning by sheriff’s deputies in Mission Viejo. He was rushed to a hospital but later died.

On Monday, Kreza’s body was escorted by law enforcement procession from several Orange County cities from Mission Hospital to the coroner’s office in Santa Ana.

Copyright 2018 The Orange County Register

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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