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California Woman Ran Over and Murdered a Man Because She Believed He Was Trying to Harm a Cat: Police

A mugshot shows Hannah Star Esser.

Hannah Star Esser. (Image via a booking photo provided by the Orange County, California District Attorney Office.)

A 20-year-old California woman is accused of intentionally running over a man she apparently believed was trying to harm a cat.

Prosecutors on Wednesday announced a murder charge against Hannah Star Esser for the death of Luis Anthony Victor, 43, after she was arrested Sunday for striking him with her vehicle.

Police found Victor dead on a street near a park in the city of Cypress about 8:30 p.m. after someone reported a vehicle had struck a pedestrian. Esser was arrested nearby after police say an initial investigation revealed she intentionally struck Victor with her car after an altercation.

Prosecutors said Wednesday that the altercation began about 8:23 p.m. when Esser confronted Victor because she believed he was “trying to run over a cat in the street” with his vehicle.

Esser got out of her car and recorded herself confronting Victor with profanity-laced accusations that he was trying to harm the cat. Victor got out of his vehicle to confront her, and Esser got back in her car while “continuing to argue with Victor before driving off,” according to a press release from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

“Instead of continuing to drive away from Victor and out of the area, Esser made a 3-point turn and drove back towards Victor in the direction of a cul-de-sac,” the release said. “Esser then made a U-turn, accelerated and drove directly at Victor.”

Esser intentionally struck Victor with the right front section of her car, prosecutors say, launching the victim up onto the hood and windshield. Victor flipped several times before landing in the street; he was declared dead there when police arrived.

The cat’s condition, including whether it was ever actually struck by Victor’s vehicle, is not known.

The case has been assigned to Senior Deputy District Attorney Dave Porter, who’s part of the homicide unit.

District Attorney Todd Spitzer said Esser “showed a complete disregard for human life.”

“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,” Spitzer said in the release.

Esser is in jail on $1 million bond. Her arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 13.

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A graduate of the University of Oregon, Meghann worked at The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, and the Idaho Statesman in Boise, Idaho, before moving to California in 2013 to work at the Orange County Register. She spent four years as a litigation reporter for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and one year as a California-based editor and reporter for and associated publications such as The National Law Journal and New York Law Journal before joining Law & Crime News. Meghann has written for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Bloomberg Law, ABA Journal, The Forward, Los Angeles Business Journal and the Laguna Beach Independent. Her Twitter coverage of federal court hearings in a lawsuit over homelessness in Los Angeles placed 1st in the Los Angeles Press Club's Southern California Journalism Awards for Best Use of Social Media by an Independent Journalist in 2021. An article she freelanced for Los Angeles Times Community News about a debate among federal judges regarding the safety of jury trials during COVID also placed 1st in the Orange County Press Club Awards for Best Pandemic News Story in 2021.