'The stuff of nightmares': Killing of O.C. doctor who was riding bike stuns community
The driver accused of hitting an Orange County doctor who was out riding his bike and then repeatedly stabbing him was charged with murder on Friday in a crime that stunned the community and left many unanswered questions.
Vanroy Evan Smith, 39, of Long Beach, was charged with one count of murder and personal use of a deadly weapon, which could enhance his sentencing, according to Orange County Superior Court records. Smith, who pleaded not guilty, is being held on $1-million bail.
If convicted on all charges, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life. Smith, who is listed as unemployed in jail records, is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 16 for a pretrial hearing.
Dr. Michael John Mammone, 58, was riding his bike near the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Crown Valley Parkway in Dana Point at about 3 p.m. Wednesday when he was struck from behind by the driver of a white Lexus, Orange County sheriff’s officials said.
The driver of the vehicle, later identified by authorities as Smith, got out of the car and stabbed Mammone several times with a knife, sheriff's officials said.
First responders arrived to find Mammone suffering from severe injuries, authorities said. He was taken to Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, where he died. Mammone sometimes worked at the hospital.
Bystanders who rushed to help Mammone managed to pin Smith to the ground, according to deputies. Smith was taken into custody and a knife was recovered at the scene.
There is no known connection between the two men, officials said, and investigators are still trying to determine what prompted the assault.
“An innocent man is dead because he took a bike ride to enjoy a beautiful California day along the beach and he was hit with a car and stabbed to death by someone he apparently never met,” Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said in a news release. “The murder of a complete stranger in broad daylight for what appears to be absolutely no reason is the stuff of nightmares."
Mammone worked as an emergency physician for Providence Mission Hospital, said Erin Prunell, a spokeswoman for the healthcare group.
He practiced mostly out of the hospital's Laguna Beach facility and occasionally worked at the Mission Viejo location where he died, and at Children’s Health of Orange County Health Center in Mission Viejo.
“The entire Mission Hospital family is grieving over the loss of an incredible physician and friend,” representatives for the hospital wrote in a statement. “We will honor Dr. Mammone’s dedication to our community and passion for medicine.”
Friends and family in Laguna Beach were devastated by his death, a spokesperson for the Providence Mission Hospital said Thursday. Friends said Mammone had a warm personality and “was the kind of person you wanted to be your doctor."
Mammone had been affiliated with Providence since November 2011 and was among the numerous medical professionals who toiled heroically during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the spokesperson.
Mammone's family declined to comment.
Yvette Cook posted on social media that she had the "privilege of working in the medical field with Dr. Mammone" while they were at San Antonio Regional Hospital in Upland.
Cook wrote that Mammone was a "caring" and "excellent physician."
"He even helped one of my family members in an emergency situation," she added. "May he [rest in peace] and my deepest condolences to Dr. Michael Mammone’s family."
Mammone received his medical degree from USC’s Keck School of Medicine in 1993, according to state records.
In the Arch Beach Heights neighborhood of Laguna Beach, where Mammone lived with his family before moving roughly a year ago, his former neighbors said they were devastated to hear the news of his death.
Mammone was always present at neighborhood block parties and often invited neighbors over for dinner. They described him as a “friendly and mellow” individual who was always quick with a smile and greeting.
Mammone, who has two sons, also loved mountain biking, they said.
“He was a great guy,” said one neighbor who declined to provide her name to The Times. “We’re just crushed.”
Roger Borelli, who lives two doors down from Mammone's South Laguna home, was trying — and failing — to reason out what could have prompted someone to attack the doctor.
“It’s just so sad that this happened,” he said. “I have no idea what the motive could have been.”
Borelli said Mammone and his wife would often take walks together around the neighborhood. But most of his interactions with Mammone centered on the doctor’s dog, Harry.
On several occasions over the few years Mammone and his family lived in the neighborhood, his small dog would escape from his home and run into Borelli’s house.
“I think we were just the first open door Harry saw. [Mammone would] come over here and take him home,” he said. “He was a nice guy.”
On Friday, several bouquets of flowers hung from a light pole on Pacific Coast Highway near the intersection where the incident occurred.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.