It’s unlikely that a connection exists between the recent quadruple-homicide in Santa Maria and the 2005 murder of the alleged shooter’s mother, a local law enforcement official said Tuesday.
“There’s no connection between the events that we know of,” said San Luis Obispo Police Capt. Dan Blanke, who confirmed the mother-son relationship.
The asserted shooter, 31-year-old Lee Isaac Bedwell Leeds of Santa Maria, was arrested March 18 on suspicion of fatally shooting four men with a semi-automatic handgun at Black Road Auto, an automobile salvage yard and towing company at 1500 South Black Road on the western edge of his hometown at about 4 p.m. that day.
He was then booked into Santa Barbara County Jail, where he is being held without bail, according to jail administrators, and was charged March 20 by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office. He was charged with four counts of murder and a penalty enhancement that would make him eligible for either the death penalty or life in prison without parole, should he be convicted of multiple murders.
Leeds was reportedly set to be arraigned April 1 in Santa Maria Superior Court for allegedly killing Robert Louis Leeds, his 66-year-old father and the owner of Black Road Auto, 37-year-old employee Terry Edward Majan, 33-year old customer Richard Cardenas Leal, and 45-year-old Golden Eli Duboise, an employee in his first week of work.
All four Santa Maria men died at the scene; no one else was injured, according to Santa Maria police.
Santa Maria Police Sgt. Jerel Haley, the case’s investigating officer, said that while the shootings apparently stemmed from “some sort of disagreement or falling out,” any dispute’s “exact extent and nature” is unclear thus far.
Complicating the matter, Haley explained, is Leeds’ refusal to speak, and that four of the people who may have been most helpful were the victims.
“It’s difficult to figure out what the motive might have been,” he said. “We haven’t been able to see why one individual was targeted and not another. There does appear to be some randomness to the victims, but this wasn’t just such some indiscriminate shooting.”
Also facing life in prison if convicted of a separate crime is Freddie Joe Lewis, the alleged murderer of Sharon Ostman, Leeds’ mother.
Homeless at the time, the 59-year-old Ostman was reportedly found beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted, with her clothes strewn about early July 11, 2005 in San Luis Obispo Creek near Mission Plaza.
“We knew she was living on the streets of San Luis Obispo,” Blanke said. “She had talked many times to some of the officers who responded.”
Lewis was arrested Feb. 11 in connection with the killing and is being held in San Luis Obispo County Jail without bail, according to a jail authority.
It was decided in a March 19 San Luis Obispo Superior Court preliminary hearing that evidence presented warranted prosecuting the 54-year-old Lewis, who plead not guilty to killing Ostman, sexually assaulting her and being a habitual sex offender.
He will be arraigned April 29 for charges of murder with special allegations of committing bodily injury and being a habitual sex offender, as he has three such prior convictions, according to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office.
Haley said the Santa Maria Police Department hadn’t thoroughly looked into Leeds’ relationship with his mother, and that doing so would now be made more difficult by his silence.
Leeds’ family reportedly released March 21 a written statement explaining he suffered from serious mental illness and had recently changed the medication he used to treat his paranoid schizophrenia.
The statement reportedly claimed Leeds switched medication after his condition deteriorated, about two weeks prior to the shooting spree, and was affected by the change, resulting in him experiencing delusions.
His family also reportedly said he was seeing a psychiatrist and had been on medications to manage his mental condition most of his life, during which he reportedly was ordered in May 2002 to pay a fine and do community service stemming from a March 2002 misdemeanor battery charge.
Haley declined to comment both on the family’s statement and Leeds’ mental state.
It is generally uncertain what routine dealings, if any, were had between Leeds, reportedly a 1994 graduate of Cabrillo High School in Lompoc who grew up as one of four children, and his parents, who reportedly divorced in the late 1970s, although his father lived with him and helped manage his mental illness.
According to Haley, Leeds’ employment under his father, who owned the establishment for several years and retired in 2007 from teaching automotive technology at Allan Hancock College for 38 years, was timely enough to be taken into consideration in the investigation.
“There was a relationship there, a business relationship,” he said.
Although Blanke said Ostman’s family members were interviewed following her murder, he declined to comment on any possible association between them.
“The (shooting) just makes the whole situation for the family members doubly tragic,” he said. “It’s just a very sad, tragic situation all around.”