Orange County prosecutors on Tuesday announced charges against a Costa Mesa man suspected of fatally hitting a 74-year-old man while driving under the influence last weekend.
Stewart Waithanji, 28, has been charged with one felony count of murder, one felony count of driving under the influence, one felony count of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher, and two misdemeanor counts of hit and run, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
Around 4 p.m. April 10, police were called to the scene of a hit-and-run on Newport Boulevard, south of 17th Street, with witnesses attempting to stop the drive from leaving.
Responding officers found an injured 74-year-old man in the street. Paramedics treated the man before taking him to a local hospital, where he died, officials said.
The victim was identified as Richard Frost of Newport Beach, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Witness reported to authorities that after the victim was struck, he attempted to the stop the driver of the silver Chevy Malibu from leaving the scene. But the driver, later identified as Waithanji, allegedly continued driving.
Waithanji was arrested by police a short time later in the parking lot of a nearby Los Alamitos bar.
There was a female passenger in the car with Waithanji at the time of the incident, and she too was arrested, according to the L.A. Times, on suspicion of being an accessory to a crime. The DA’s office has not filed charges against her yet.
Waithanji has three prior convictions for driving under the influence in Iowa, according to the DA’s office. He was also wanted on two other DUI warrants: one for a September 2019 case and another for an October 2019 incident. He has also been charged in a hit-and-run that occurred shortly before last weekend’s collision, officials said.
Prosecutors have asked for an increased bail from $1 million to $2 million, the DA’s office said. Waithanji faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on all charges.
“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,” O.C. District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a written statement. “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.”