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Rhean Fontanoza. (Courtesy of Irvine Police Department)
Rhean Fontanoza. (Courtesy of Irvine Police Department)
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The man suspected of fatally shooting a United Parcel Service driver in Irvine last week was on disability from the company and was a childhood friend of the victim, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said on Tuesday, May 21.

Rhean Jalipa Fontanoza, 46, of Aliso Viejo was arrested over the weekend after he spent days in a hospital while barricading in a pickup truck just hours after officials said he shot and killed Expedito Cuesta De Leon, 50, also of Aliso Viejo.

Fontanoza, who was scheduled to return to work on June 1, has now been charged with special-circumstance murder, making him eligible for the death penalty if convicted as charged, the DA’s Office said.

He had stopped another UPS driver and asked about De Leon’s whereabouts and was told he was on another route. Fontanoza is accused of then tracking De Leon down after accessing the route through a UPS computer at the Aliso Viejo hub where they both worked and taking a photo of it, according to the DA’s Office.

The D.A.’s office accused Fontanoza of pulling up alongside De Leon’s UPS truck, in a vehicle his victim would not recognize, and suddenly opening firing 14 times on his one-time friend, who still had his UPS scanner in a hand after just making a delivery.

Prosecutors described Fontanoza as a friend of De Leon’s since childhood. But they said police had not yet determined why Fontanoza sought to kill the married father of two who had told friends and colleagues he was looking forward to retirement.

“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,” District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement. “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.”

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