First, the story, as reported in the L.A. Times (so take it with the appropriately-sized grain of salt):
Pistol-Packing Granny Kills Granddaughter’s Ex-Husband
By Mai Tran and Christopher Goffard, Times Staff Writers
The 81-year-old woman accused of fatally shooting her granddaughter’s ex-husband admitted to the killing in an interview today.
In comments to the Los Angeles Times at the county jail, Jeane E. Allen confessed to gunning down 26-year-old Alex L. Reyes outside her Lake Forest home.
She said that after he showed up at the family’s home over the weekend, she walked inside, grabbed a handgun she had recently cleaned and fired at him.
Allen said she then called 911 and told the dispatcher: “I just shot a pedophile.”
No child abuse charges have ever been filed against Reyes and he denied similar accusations during his divorce from Leslie Bieg, 24, his former wife who is Allen’s granddaughter.
Reyes, who lived in Brea, came to Allen’s home Saturday morning to pick up his 18-month-old child for a supervised visitation. The court-appointed monitor had not yet arrived, authorities said, and it was not known why supervision was required.
Reyes was speaking to his former wife when, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said, Allen shot him in the head and thigh. He died at the hospital the next day.
Reyes’ family defended him today. “He was a good father. He was a good brother. He was a good son,” said Reyes’ father, Gilbert.
He said his son had just graduated from the Fullerton College police academy and that he wanted to be a police officer.
Allen, now the jail’s oldest inmate, is 5 feet tall with dyed-blond hair, thick glasses and long, carefully maintained blue acrylic nails. Her hands shook as she recounted her acrimonious history with Reyes. She said she doesn’t regret shooting him. She said it was the only way to protect her great-grandson.
During the interview today, Allen said she never shared with police her accusations of abuse, which are alleged in a thick court file stemming from custody proceedings over the boy.
Larry Fancher, the La Habra attorney who represented Reyes during the custody dispute, said that as part of a court stipulation, Reyes allowed himself to be examined by mental health experts, including a doctor who specialized in sex crimes.
He said experts gave Reyes a series of tests, including a polygraph, to determine his fitness as a parent. Fancher said the results of the first series were inconclusive, but a second series was favorable to him.
“The findings did not support the allegations made by the grandmother and the mother,” said Fancher, who had planned to call the experts on Reyes’ behalf when the custody case went to trial in March. Reyes hoped to win unsupervised visits with his son.
Allen told The Times she shot Reyes after he asked her for a letter of apology.
The grandmother is being held on $1 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned on murder charges Tuesday.
Some neighbors described Allen as a pleasant woman, while others said she could be cranky and cursed. One neighbor, a former Marine, said that last week Allen brought him her .38-caliber Smith & Wesson and asked him to make sure it was in working order.
So, from appearances Ms. Allen was convinced that her grand-daughter’s ex-husband was abusing her great-grandson, that the authorities would do nothing about it, and she therefore planned and carried out the deliberate premeditated murder of said ex.
This is the definition of vigilante justice – “taking the law into your own hands.”
And here is why I’m ambivalent about it: “She said it was the only way to protect her great-grandson.” I have little doubt, given the minimal information in this story, that she believed that. I think she looked at her great-grandson, and decided that spending her few remaining years in prison was a better option than having her great-grandson suffer more years of abuse until – just maybe – the findings did support the allegations. But by then, how much damage would have been done?
Perhaps Alex L. Reyes wasn’t a pedophile, and wasn’t abusing his own son. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But Ms. Allen and her grand-daughter were much closer to the situation than either I or the State, and Ms. Allen apparently believed to the point where she was willing to commit murder, and then accept the consequences for it. She had given up on the State as a solution to her family’s problem. Perhaps she’d heard of the recent Vermont case where Judge Edward Cashman sentenced pedophile Mark Hulett to sixty days in jail for repeatedly molesting a neighbor’s daughter over the course of four years. The judge recently changed the sentence – under pressure – to 3-10 years, but I can’t imagine something like that would be comforting to Ms. Allen.
So she decided to be judge, jury, and executioner – and then accept whatever punishment society decided she deserved.
This killing is one of the consequences of retaining one’s sovereignty while belonging to a polity. YOU accept responsibility for your own protection, and the protection of your family. YOU decide when the rules of the State should no longer be abided by because the State has failed to protect your rights. YOU retain the ability to make decisions like Ms. Allen made – and then, instead of making like an outlaw and running for the hills, you stand and take your punishment – under the laws of that same State. Individual sovereignty can be a difficult thing. It’s much easier to give up your power and submit to the chains of the State. Usually those chains are light enough that you don’t notice them, but when confronted with a situation like this one, they carry the weight of the world.
When you are sovereign, those chains don’t exist – but your decisions can carry that same weight.
This is a perfect example of what jury trials are for, and why jury nullification exists. I wasn’t there. I don’t know the facts. Perhaps he was a loving father, her grand-daughter is a bitch and a chip off the old bag, and great-gramma just hated his guts. I hope a grand-jury hearing will ask these questions, and if it comes to trial the facts will come out.
But if there’s sufficient reason to believe Reyes was a pedophile, and the State failed to protect her great-grandson, I’d vote to acquit.