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Alcohol a factor in fatal crash

Prison inmate turned millionaire was drunk when he died in a moped accident Oct. 7, Honolulu coroner says.

October 17, 2008|Stuart Pfeifer | Times Staff Writer

DeWayne McKinney, a former California prison inmate turned millionaire, was driving with a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit last week when he was killed in a moped accident in Hawaii, Honolulu's chief medical examiner said Thursday.

McKinney, 47, was killed shortly after midnight Oct. 7 when he crashed his moped into a pole and was thrown to the asphalt. He died from multiple internal injuries, said Dr. Kanthi Dealwis.

Tests revealed that McKinney had a blood-alcohol content of 0.22%, Dealwis said.

In 2000, McKinney was released from prison after Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas concluded that he'd been wrongly convicted of a 1980 robbery-murder at a Burger King in Orange.

McKinney received $1 million in a settlement with the Orange Police Department and parlayed it into a multimillion dollar ATM business on the Hawaiian islands.

He installed bank machines in restaurants, bars and shopping malls, profiting each time a customer paid a convenience fee. He bought an ocean-view home in Honolulu, a boat and other luxuries.

In the months after his release, he expressed no anger or bitterness about his wrongful conviction.

Instead, he spoke at churches about the faith that carried him through his 19 years in prison. He appeared at anti-death penalty conferences and told his story.

But he also struggled with alcoholism, friends said.

"I'm so sad, because he only had eight years of life," said Nancy Clark, an Orange County woman who runs treatment programs for recovering alcoholics and drug abusers. Touched by the story of McKinney's wrongful conviction, Clark gave him a free apartment in which to live after his release.

Considering the horrors McKinney endured in prison, she said, it's not surprising that he turned to alcohol.

The last time Clark saw McKinney was at an anti-death penalty event in Los Angeles. He was drinking heavily that night, she recalled.

"I think his drinking became a runaway train and he didn't know how to stop it," she said.

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stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

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