By CBSLA Staff

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — A former addiction care center employee was convicted Wednesday of second-degree murder for driving under the influence of various drugs when he struck and killed an off-duty Costa Mesa Fire captain in 2018.

Stephen Scarpa. (OCSD)

Stephen Taylor Scarpa, now 28, was originally charged with one felony count of murder in the killing of 44-year-old Costa Mesa Fire Capt. Mike Kreza, a husband and father of three.

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Prosecutors say Scarpa was under the influence of multiple controlled substances on the morning of Nov. 3, 2018, when he drove into a bike lane on Alicia Parkway in Mission Viejo, onto a sidewalk, and struck Kreza while he was bicycling around 8 a.m.

Kreza, an 18-year veteran of Costa Mesa Fire & Rescue, was left unconscious and suffering from severe head and body trauma. Even after brain surgery, Kreza never regained consciousness and passed away early Monday morning at Mission Hospital.

Scarpa remained at the scene of the crash, where he was evaluated by a drug recognition expert. Deputies found several prescription medications in his van and arrested him.

Jurors deliberated for about an hour Tuesday and another three hours Wednesday before reaching a verdict. They had to choose between second-degree murder and acquittal and were not allowed to consider gross vehicular manslaughter.

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During his trial, Senior Deputy District Attorney Dan Feldman told jurors that Scarpa was “loaded” on various drugs when he left the party to drive home.

Feldman said the defendant had ingested methamphetamine, fentanyl and “undefined downers” before the deadly collision.

“He’d been up for days,” Feldman said. “Loaded is the term he used in interviews (with police).”

Scarpa’s attorney, Rudy Loewenstein, argued the crash was a “tragic accident.” He said there was no evidence that his client was driving erratically before the collision.

Scarpa is facing 15 years to life in prison at his sentencing, which is scheduled for Dec. 10.

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