A California woman has been charged with first-degree murder after killing a man by ramming her car into him after accusing him of trying to run over a cat in the street.
Hannah Star Esser, 20, was charged with murder in the death of Victor Anthony Luis, 43, and detained on $1 million bail, the Orange County prosecutor’s office said in a statement. Authorities said that Esser was driving in the community of Cypress on Sunday night when she confronted Luis and accused him of trying to run over a cat. Esser ultimately returned to her vehicle while arguing with Victor, made a U-turn, and drove straight at him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
There are three murder charges in California: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and capital murder. First-degree murder in California is defined as a premeditated killing with malice aforethought. The penalty in California for first-degree murder is 25 years to life in prison.
Second-degree murder requires malice and intention; however, it does not require premeditation or deliberation before the crime. Essentially, second-degree murder in California is any murder that is not either first-degree murder, felony murder, or capital murder. The penalty in California for second-degree murder is 15 years to life in prison.
Capital Murder is “murder with special circumstances.” The penalty for capital murder can be life in prison without parole or capital punishment in California.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said that Esser’s actions showed a complete disregard for human life,” hence the First-degree murder charge. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office will ensure that this random act of violence targeting a stranger will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Kimberly Edds, spokesperson for the District Attorney’s office, told the news outlet it was not “immediately clear whether a cat was involved.”