ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. - Federal agents on Thursday arrested two Orange County residents involved in the killing of a man who was shot in the head and dumped into the Pacific Ocean with weights tied around his ankles.
In an unsealed complaint released Thursday afternoon, authorities stated that Hoang Xuan Le, also known as “Wayne,” 38, of Fountain Valley, an alleged drug trafficker, lured the victim onto a boat owned by Sheila Marie Ritze, 40, of San Juan Capistrano, in the Dana Point Harbor on October 14 with promises of an overnight fishing trip.
The victim’s body was recovered from the Pacific Ocean several miles northwest of Oceanside on October 16.
The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that he was a homicide victim who drowned after being shot and suffering blunt force trauma.
“Le has confessed to a confidential human source that he took the victim out on the boat, confronted the victim about a debt owed, shot the victim, tied weights to the victim’s ankles, and sank the victim’s body in the ocean,” according to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaints.
Le was subsequently charged with first-degree murder.
According to the affidavit, Le told people, including the victim’s girlfriend, that he had decided at the last minute not to go on the fishing trip. But, nine days after the body was recovered, a confidential source contacted a member of the victim's family to say that Le told a different story.
That source told investigators that Le confessed to killing the victim because the victim owed Le $30,000 to $40,000.
The confidential source agreed to work with law enforcement, who arranged to have the source meet Le at his residence on November 10 to purchase cocaine from him. The meeting was recorded and during the exchange, Le indicated a willingness to be a killer for hire, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.
During a search of Le's home Thursday morning, authorities found an AR-15-type rifle, a shotgun and a crossbow.
Ritze, who is one of two registered owners of the boat linked to the murder, is being charged with being an accessory after the fact. Authorities said that data from Ritze's cell phone showed she was in the location of the harbor at the times the boat left and returned, and by surveillance tapes made at Dana Point Harbor showing three individuals – believed to be Ritze, Le and the victim – when the boat is launched, but showing only Ritze and Le when the boat returned hours later.
Additionally, the complaint alleges that Ritze surveyed surveillance cameras in the area around Dana Point Harbor soon after the murder and purchased a tracking device found after the murder on a vehicle belonging to the victim’s girlfriend, according to data retrieved from Ritze’s phone that was outlined in the affidavit.
If convicted as charged, Le faces a potential sentence of life without parole or the death penalty. The accessory after the fact charge against Ritze carries a statutory maximum sentence of fifteen years in federal prison.