06/14/2024

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Expedito Cuesta De Leon, Rhean Jalipa Fontanoza

Connection between slain UPS driver shot at 14 times on the job and his suspected stalker runs much deeper than co-workers, DA reveals

An aerial view of the shooting scene (KABC-TV/screengrab), (left inset) UPS driver Expedito Cuesta De Leon (GoFundMe), (right inset) Rhean Jalipa Fontanoza (Irvine Police Department)

A UPS driver murdered in broad daylight last week as he sat in his delivery truck was stalked by a childhood friend and shot 10 times at an industrial park for reasons unknown, prosecutors in California allege.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office revealed more Tuesday about the shocking shooting of 50-year-old UPS driver Expedito Cuesta De Leon while he was on the job last Thursday in Irvine. Not only was the suspected killer stalking De Leon, a co-worker, the two men had been friends from childhood, DA Todd Spitzer said.

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    “Mr. De Leon was just going about his day, doing his job with no idea his longtime friend was stalking him with every intent to kill him,” the DA said. “The depravity involved to plot and carry out a plan to execute someone you shared a lifetime of memories is not something anyone of us can wrap our heads around. No life should have to end like this and it is a tragedy that should have never happened.”

    According to prosecutors, murder suspect Rhean Jalipa Fontanoza, a 46-year-old Aliso Viejo resident, was “on work disability” at the time of the shooting and on track to return by June 1. Yet, Fontanoza allegedly stalked De Leon before opening fire 14 times, 10 of those bullets fatally wounding De Leon as he sat in the driver’s seat of his delivery truck with his seatbelt on and a UPS scanner in hand.

    Prosecutors said they don’t know what motivated the shooting, but they did say there’s evidence Fontanoza stopped another UPS driver after noon on May 16 in an attempt to learn details about De Leon’s route.

    “When the driver told him De Leon had another route, Fontanoza is accused of going to the UPS Aliso Viejo substation where he was seen accessing a computer that shows driver routes and taking a picture with his phone,” prosecutors said.

    Around two hours later, the defendant found De Leon and allegedly waited for him to make a delivery before shooting at the victim “14 times in 19 seconds.”

    “Just before 3 p.m., Fontanoza is accused of tracking De Leon down on his route and driving past him a new vehicle which De Leon wouldn’t recognize,” prosecutors said in a press release. “De Leon then left his truck to make a delivery and returned to his truck, and buckled his seatbelt.”

    The victim “still had his UPS scanner in his hand and his seatbelt buckled” at time he was shot and killed, prosecutors added.

    As Law&Crime previously reported on the case, Fontanoza faces special circumstance allegations of firing from a vehicle and murder by lying in wait and a gun sentencing enhancement, charges that could make this a capital case in name only.

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    Surveillance footage allegedly showed a Honda Ridgeline driver in a dark-colored baseball cap and a face mask pulling up next to De Leon’s delivery truck before that driver opened fire and fled the scene.

    Prosecutors said that Fontanoza was arrested only after cops “police deployed a police K9 and tear gas into the vehicle” to end a standoff.

    A GoFundMe campaign quoting De Leon’s sister Maria said her brother was a “wonderful” and “caring” man who was “gunned down in broad daylight by a coworker.”

    “Because of this tragic, unexpected loss of my brother, we unfortunately aren’t able to properly give him a proper burial. Anything given will be greatly appreciated,” the post said. “Thanks for your help to lay my brother to rest.”

    UPS, for its part, said “hearts are heavy tonight with the news” of De Leon’s death while working.

    “We are assisting authorities however we can to understand what happened. As a result of the ongoing investigation to find those responsible, we are deferring any additional questions to authorities,” UPS said. “The safety and well-being of our employees is our top priority, and we are providing support and counseling services to our employees affected by this tragedy.”

    Jason Kandel contributed to this report.

    The post Connection between slain UPS driver shot at 14 times on the job and his suspected stalker runs much deeper than co-workers, DA reveals first appeared on Law & Crime.