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Suspect in wrong-way collision that killed woman on Newport Beach freeway is arrested in Montana

Authorities have arrested a 24-year-old man who they say drove on the wrong side of the 73 Freeway in Newport Beach last year and slammed into a vehicle, killing a woman.

U.S. Marshals arrested Luke Fitch on June 11 after finding him at a home in Whitefish, Montana. He had fled California at some point after the June 5, 2019 collision, authorities said.

Fitch, driving a Mercedes-Benz wagon, was heading southbound in the northbound lanes at upward of 100 miles per hour, the California Highway Patrol said at the time of the crash.

The Mercedes-Benz slammed into a BMW and killed the driver, Arda Gulesserian, 64, of Newport Beach, authorities said.

A Lexus sedan then ran into the Mercedes-Benz. No one in the Lexus was injured but Fitch suffered serious injuries and was taken to a hospital where he underwent at least one surgery, the CHP said.

Florentino Olivera, a California Highway Patrol officer and spokesman, said Wednesday that authorities had been building their case before taking Fitch into custody and for a while didn’t know where he was living.

On June 4, nearly a year after the collision, a warrant was issued for his arrest, court records show, and he faces three felony counts: one for murder and two for assault with a deadly weapon.

Olivera would not discuss how the suspect was tracked down to Montana. As of Wednesday morning, Olivera said, Fitch had not been brought back to California.

It was unclear if authorities suspect Fitch was under the influence at the time of the crash, or if there was another reason he allegedly enter the freeway, at Birch Street, on the wrong side.

According to Orange County court records, in April 2019 he pleaded nolo contendere to a hit and run with property damage. In August 2014, he pleaded guilty to unsafe speed for prevailing conditions and before that he completed traffic school for exceeding the maximum speed of 65 mph in November 2013.

Source: Orange County Register

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