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Woman, 81, Admits She Killed Man

In a jailhouse interview, the Lake Forest resident says she shot her granddaughter's husband for fear he was harming his son.

January 31, 2006|Mai Tran and Christopher Goffard | Times Staff Writers

A frail, elderly woman said in a jailhouse interview Monday that she gunned down a 26-year-old man outside her Lake Forest home Saturday, explaining that she feared he was harming her great-grandson.

Jeane E. Allen, 81, said that although she regretted killing Alex L. Reyes, her granddaughter's estranged husband, she did not feel she had done anything wrong.

"In God's eyes, I don't feel guilty, because it was the only thing I could do to save his life," she said during an interview with the Los Angeles Times, referring to her 19-month-old great-grandson, Anthony Reyes.

Allen's hands shook and her eyes welled up as she talked on a telephone through a glass partition at Orange County's Central Women's Jail, where she is being held on suspicion of murder, personal use of a firearm and a special circumstance of lying in wait.

She was arrested Saturday and is being held on $1-million bail. She is scheduled to be arraigned in Newport Beach today. If convicted, she could get life in prison.

Reyes came Saturday morning to the home Allen shares with her granddaughter and great-grandson to pick up his son for a court-supervised visit. Allen told The Times that he helped adjust a strap on a stroller she had just bought for the toddler. She said things were fine until he brought up the accusations she'd made against him, which were contained in divorce proceedings, and asked her for a letter of apology.

"I'm sorry, but at that point, that makes me look like a liar, and I just had it," Allen said. She said she went to a drawer, grabbed the gun and shot him. She said she then called 911.

Allen said she told the 911 dispatcher, "I just shot a pedophile." Her granddaughter and great-grandson were home at the time, and the victim's parents were also present, having just dropped him off. Sheriff's deputies said Reyes was shot in the head and thigh.

The accusation had surfaced after her granddaughter, Leslie Bieg, 24, filed papers in October 2004 to divorce Reyes and claim custody of the boy, said Larry Fancher, a La Habra attorney who represented Reyes. Both Allen and Bieg alleged that Reyes had been molesting the boy.

Reyes never was charged with such a crime and, during divorce proceedings, characterized the allegation as baseless. He said Allen opposed his marriage to Bieg because, in her eyes, he was Mexican and "not good enough for her."

Fancher said that in an effort to get custody, Reyes let himself to be examined by mental health experts, including a doctor who specialized in sex crimes. "I'll take any test anybody wants to give me on this subject -- I want to see my son," Fancher recalled his client saying.

He said the experts gave Reyes a series of tests, including a polygraph, to determine his fitness as a parent. He said the results of the first series were inconclusive, but a second series was favorable to his client.

Fancher said he planned to call the experts on Reyes' behalf when the custody case was to go to trial in March.

Reyes and Bieg agreed that he could have supervised visits of the boy, for the time being, but he hoped to be allowed unsupervised visits. Fancher said the shooting "simply convinces me the grandmother would go to whatever extent necessary to make sure Mr. Reyes did not have any meaningful relationship with his son."

Reyes' friends and family defended him Monday.

"Alex was determined to clear his name," said Jessie Standifer, 45, a family friend. "He wanted his son to know that it was not true." Standifer, who had met Allen, called her a "very angry, mean, rather hateful" person who had made the molestation claim to protect her granddaughter's custody of the child.

When Reyes learned that Allen kept a gun in the house, Standifer said, he reported it to court officials but was told the gun was legally registered in Allen's name. "He was worried for his son's safety," Standifer said.

Reyes' father, Gilbert, said his son had recently graduated from the Fullerton College police academy, but his plans to be a police officer were sidetracked by the pending divorce.

"He was a good father," Gilbert Reyes said. "He was a good brother. He was a good son."

Reyes and Bieg had been married just six months when she filed for divorce. After the marriage fell apart, Reyes went to live with his parents in Brea.

On Monday, his family showed a reporter his upstairs bedroom. On a shelf above his mattress, his police academy hat sat atop a stack of books. A filing box, filled with what his father believes are divorce papers, was stored deep inside his closet.

In the corner of the bedroom, Reyes kept a white cradle decorated with baby blankets. To the left of the cradle, Reyes kept his own bed -- a mattress on the floor, covered in blankets.

Reyes' 25-year-old brother, Jamie, said Reyes' life centered on his son. "That's who he loved," the brother said. "That's what his life was."

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