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Motive for Shooting Is Unclear as Man Dies

A Lake Forest neighbor says 81-year-old suspect sought his help with a gun before the slaying.

January 30, 2006|Roy Rivenburg | Times Staff Writer

A Brea man who sheriff's deputies said was gunned down by his former wife's grandmother died early Sunday, as investigators worked to piece together a possible motive.

Jeane E. Allen, 81, was booked on suspicion of murder Sunday after Alex L. Reyes, 26, died about 1 a.m. at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, according to Orange County Sheriff's Department officials.

She shot Reyes in the head and thigh Saturday morning as he tried to pick up his toddler son, who lives with Allen and her granddaughter in the 25000 block of Coral Wood Street in Lake Forest, witnesses and officials said.

Sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said investigators didn't know why Reyes was shot.

On Sunday, neighbors described the frantic moments after the shooting and offered conflicting views about Allen, who is being held in lieu of $1-million bail and is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

Reyes, who visited his 18-month-old son, Anthony, on Saturdays, was talking on the porch with his former wife, Leslie Bieg, 24, and Allen while his parents waited in a car at the curb.

The court-appointed observer who normally monitored the visits had not yet arrived, and authorities said they didn't yet know why the monitoring had been required.

Witnesses described the conversation as casual with no arguments, Amormino said Saturday.

Then Allen pulled out a handgun and opened fire, he said.

Neighbor Susan Geraghty said she ran to her window after hearing gunshots and screams.

Across the street, Reyes lay crumpled on Allen's front porch, near a tipped-over stroller he had just assembled.

Geraghty said she could see only Reyes' parents, frantically calling for help on cellphones.

"The 911 operator was trying to get [Reyes' mother] to do CPR," said Nancy Lowery, another neighbor. "She tried and she couldn't do it."

Lowery described Allen as a cranky woman who let her dog urinate on neighborhood lawns and cursed anyone who complained about it.

She said Reyes' parents were afraid of Allen and usually "parked in front of my house instead of hers while their son visited."

After deputies swarmed into the neighborhood, the garage door at Allen's house opened and she walked out, followed by Bieg, who was cradling Anthony, Geraghty said.

Events leading up to the shooting are unclear, Amormino said.

But one neighbor, Rex Rexroad, said that Allen on Friday had brought him a pink box with a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson inside, and asked him to check the gun.

"She said [Reyes] was making a lot of threats and she wanted to make sure the gun was serviceable in case of an emergency," said Rexroad, 37, a former Marine who had helped the elderly woman with minor chores over the years.

"I told her she should call the police, but she said they told her they couldn't do anything unless something happened," he said.

"I cleaned her gun and gave her 20 rounds of target ammunition -- non-jacketed bullets. I had no reason to believe anything bad was going to happen."

Rexroad, who described Allen as a "nice lady," said he offered her a trigger lock for the gun, "but she was worried she wouldn't be able to remove it in an emergency."

The next morning, when he awoke to discover a sheriff's helicopter over the neighborhood and police tape surrounding Allen's house, Rexroad told deputies what had happened.

The gun that killed Reyes was a .38-caliber, authorities said, but they could not confirm Sunday whether it was the one Rexroad handled.

Rexroad said Allen disliked Reyes, accusing him of abusing her great-grandson.

An unidentified relative at Reyes' Brea home, reached by telephone Sunday, disputed allegations that Reyes abused his son.

"He was a kind, loving guy," the relative said.

"Everything that's being said about him is bogus. He loved his son and he died for his son."

The relative said a lawyer for Reyes' family might make a statement today.

After the shooting, Reyes' son was initially taken in by Geraghty and her daughter Shannon Craycraft.

At one point, the boy went to a front window and started crying for his mother, Craycraft said.

"But we calmed him down, and I don't think he had a clue about what was going on."

He was later taken to the Orangewood Children's Home where he remained Sunday, Geraghty said.

After visiting the boy's mother Sunday morning, Geraghty described her as "visibly upset and crying," especially about having her son taken to Orangewood.

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