The suspect in a New Year’s Day hit-and-run double homicide has been returned to Tucson and made his first appearance before a judge Wednesday.
Michael Dwayne Leday Jr., 28, fled Tucson after the brutal killings and was arrested two weeks later in Kansas City, Mo., by deputies from the U.S. Marshals Service.
Leday was extradited to Tucson and arrived at the Pima County jail early Wednesday, said Deputy Tracy Suitt, spokesman for the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.
At his court appearance Wednesday, Leday was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of Patrick Balbastro, 32, and Cindy Burnett, 46.
He may face additional charges with regard to a third victim, Balbastro’s 43-year-old girlfriend, who also was run over by Leday.
She remains hospitalized in the intensive-care unit in stable condition, said the woman’s niece, Naomi Rios, on Wednesday.
“She is getting better every day, and doctors expect her to have a full recovery but it will take months,” Rios said.
“She has undergone numerous surgeries. Our family continues asking the community for prayers for her recovery,” said Rios.
Balbastro and Burnett both died from “multiple blunt force injuries sustained as a pedestrian run over by a vehicle,” according to recently released autopsy reports from the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner.
The autopsy reports reveal Balbastro, who was driving, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.150, almost twice the legal limit for driving under the influence, and Burnett, who was on foot, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.248.
The altercation that led to the deaths began just before 4 a.m. Jan. 1, when Leday and Burnett got into a fight while walking in the 2200 block of East Sunland Vista, near East 36th Street and South Campbell Avenue, Tucson police said.
Balbastro and his girlfriend were driving in the south-side neighborhood when they saw a man, whom police now identify as Leday, assaulting Burnett.
Balbastro called 911 and told a dispatcher he was going to help the woman, Sgt. Chris Widmer, a TPD spokesman, said after the incident.
When Balbastro got out of his car to help Burnett, the man attacked him. At some point during the attack, Balbastro’s girlfriend got out of the car, Widmer said.
After the assault, the attacker got into Balbastro’s car and “aggressively used the vehicle as a weapon to strike all three victims multiple times,” Widmer said.