A 28-year-old man has been convicted of second-degree murder in a 2018 DUI crash that killed a Costa Mesa fire captain in Mission Viejo.
Costa Mesa Fire and Rescue Capt. Mike Kreza was riding a bicycle along Alicia Parkway near Via Burgos in Nov. 3, 2018 when he was struck by the driver of a van, later identified as Stephen Taylor Scarpa.
Kreza, who was training for an Ironman triathlon, suffered head and body trauma and died days later.
The 18-year veteran with the fire department was off duty at the time. He was survived by his wife and three daughters.
Scarpa remained at the scene after the crash and was evaluated for DUI.
He appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance, and officials also found multiple prescription medications inside his vehicle, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Scarpa admitted to driving after having spent the prior three days ingesting controlled substances, officials said, but pleaded not guilty to murder in the case.
A jury found Scarpa guilty of second-degree murder on Wednesday, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
As a student at Esperanza High School in Anaheim, Scarpa had apparently participated in a program meant to warn students about the dangers of driving under the influence hosted by the Brea Police Department and the Anaheim Fire Department.
Scarpa was selected to be one of the students “killed” by an impaired driver, officials said.
“He was removed from the classroom, his obituary was read to his fellow students, and he was taken to an off-site location with the other students ‘killed’ by impaired drivers to hear testimonials from people whose lives had been impacted by driving under the influence collisions,” according to a news release from the District Attorney’s Office.
Officials said the program should have led Scarpa to understand the dangers of driving under the influence and its consequences.
“The victim in this case mattered. He mattered to his loved ones, his co-workers at the Costa Mesa Fire Department, the community he served, and he mattered to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office,” DA Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “No child should have to be told that their daddy isn’t coming home because of the selfish decision of someone to get behind the wheel while under the influence. This defendant was admonished about the dangers of driving under the influence and that he could be charged with murder if he killed someone while driving under the influence. He ignored those warnings, he killed a human being, and now he’s a convicted murderer.“
Scarpa faces a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in prison when he is sentenced on Dec. 10.