COSTA MESA — Robert Lehmann was waiting for them with a gun, authorities alleged.
The 36-year-old Costa Mesa man was home alone, having sent his 7-year-old daughter and his current wife away for ice cream.
That’s how a release from the Orange County district attorney’s office painted the alleged facts of the events leading up to Tuesday night’s double homicide outside Lehmann’s northern Costa Mesa home.
Lehmann’s ex-wife and former father-in-law — Emily Ford, 32, and Russell Ford, 62 — came to the house in the 3400 block of Santa Clara Circle to take the court-ordered custody of the former couple’s 7-year-old girl, the release said. Lehmann then allegedly shot both of the Fords dead.
Prosecutors said his execution-style actions included chasing the Fords into the street while firing at them and then shooting them again as they lay on the ground bleeding.
They said bullets went by the vehicle containing Emily Ford’s 3-month-old she had with her new husband; others hit two cars parked across the street by a child care center.
Lehmann, originally scheduled to be arraigned at the Central Jail in Santa Ana on Thursday, had his arraignment delayed until June 24.
He has been charged with two felony counts of special-circumstances murder with sentencing enhancements for the personal use of a deadly weapon, multiple murders, and lying in wait. He faces a maximum sentence of two life terms in state prison without the possibility of parole if convicted on the charges, the D.A.'s news release said.
Just hours before the shooting, a family court judge had awarded Emily Ford, a teacher’s aide at Paularino Elementary School in Costa Mesa, sole custody of their little girl, according to police and court records.
Lehmann failed to appear at Tuesday’s custody hearing, records show.
The judge also awarded the mother sole decision-making powers regarding the 7-year-old’s education, and ordered Emily Ford to pick up her daughter at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The shooting occurred around 5:30 p.m.
The court records paint a more complicated picture about how the former couple’s relationship gradually became strained after their separation seven years ago.
The battle over the daughter’s custody began amicably when the two separated in 2004 after 10 months of marriage, but tension began around the time when Emily Ford wanted a divorce and was set to remarry in 2009, according to court documents filed by Emily Ford’s attorney.
Emily Ford worked as a special-education instructional aide at Paularino while also waiting tables part-time at Morton’s Steakhouse in Santa Ana, according to court records from January.
Lehmann worked for Hewlett-Packard as a “solution architect,” grossing more than $13,000 a month, according to records.
In 2009, Lehmann threatened to stall the divorce unless Emily Ford reached an agreement with him outside of court on custody and support issues, according to the documents filed by Ford’s attorney.
Her attorney also alleges that Lehmann made many decisions about raising their daughter without consulting his ex-wife, including scheduling medical appointments and evaluations with a speech therapist, neuropsychologist, occupational therapist and a neurologist.
Ford’s attorney also alleges Lehmann enrolled the daughter in private school without informing Emily Ford and would not take the daughter to public school on the days he had custody, according to court records.
Emily Ford had a 3-month-old son with her new husband, according to Paularino principal Stacy Lynne de Boom-Howard. Lehmann has a 12-year-old stepdaughter, according to court records.
For the family of Emily and Russell Ford, the Ford Family Memorial Fund has been set up with the Downey Federal Credit Union. Emily and Russell Ford are survived by Theresa Ford, Emily’s mother, who is an educator with the Downey Unified School District.
Those wishing to make a contribution can drop off checks made out to account No. 109350-2 at Paularino Elementary School, 1060 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa.