A man and woman from Orange County are each facing murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges in connection with a 2019 slaying of a man whose body was found floating in the Pacific Ocean, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.
The alleged shooter, Hoang Xuan Le, was previously charged with first-degree murder. A superseding indictment issued by a federal grand jury on Wednesday added a murder charge against Sheila Marie Ritze, 40, of San Juan Capistrano, the DOJ said in a news release.
The indictment also alleges that Le, 39, of Fountain Valley, and Ritze conspired to commit the homicide. The victim was shot and left to die after being thrown overboard, according to Justice Department officials.
“The grand jury on Wednesday returned a 10-count superseding indictment that adds a conspiracy count alleging that the two defendants plotted and were working together when the victim was lured onto a boat last fall with promises of an overnight lobster fishing trip,” Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, said in a statement.
On Oct. 16, 2019, the man’s body was recovered from the Pacific Ocean, several miles northwest of Oceanside. He was found to have gunshot and blunt force trauma wounds, the DOJ said. They identified him in the indictment only as “T.D.”
After the slaying, the indictment alleges Ritze and Le, who is also known as “Wayne,” and “Wangsta,” went back to the Dana Point Marina.
The two were arrested by the FBI on Dec. 19, 2019.
Ritze, who was registered as an owner of the boat, was previously accused of being an accessory after that fact. The indictment also charges Ritze with lying to federal investigators after she told them she had never met the victim before the deadly boat trip.
Along with three charges related to the murder, the superseding indictment adds narcotics charges against Le related to drug deals with an undercover operative during the investigation into the slaying.
He is also charged with being in possession of methamphetamine, a shotgun and an AR-15-type “ghost gun” when he was arrested.
Le and Ritze pleaded not guilty earlier this year to the original charges and are currently being held in federal custody without bail.
Both are scheduled to be arraigned on the new indictment on July 6 in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
The first-degree murder charge against Le and Ritze carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole in federal prison.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of life without parole, as well as the charge of of “discharging a firearm in furtherance of and during and in relation to a crime of violence,” the release stated.
Le could face added decades on top of any sentence if he is also convicted on the narcotics charges.