SANTA ANA, California – A San Juan Capistrano woman has been sentenced to 262 months in federal prison for her role in the October 2019 murder of a man whose body was found floating in the Pacific Ocean with bullet and blunt force trauma wounds, the Justice Department announced today.
Sheila Marie Ritze, 42, was sentenced late Monday afternoon by United States District Judge David O. Carter, who at the hearing described Ritze’s conduct as “horrific and horrendous” and noted its “callousness.”
At the conclusion of a 12-day trial in April 2022, a federal jury found Ritze guilty of one count of second-degree murder within in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and one count of making false statements to federal investigators.
On October 15, 2019, Ritze went out on her boat – in what was described to the victim as a late-night lobster-fishing trip – with Hoang Xuan Le, 41, a.k.a. “Wayne,” and “Wangsta,” of Fountain Valley, and the victim, who owed Le a debt. Ritze’s boat was docked at Dana Point Harbor.
Around midnight, Ritze drove her boat out into the Pacific Ocean with Le and the victim on board. Le shot the victim on the boat, the victim went overboard, and Ritze and Le left the victim to die in the ocean, where he drowned. Le and Ritze then returned to Dana Point Harbor.
The victim’s body was recovered from the Pacific Ocean several miles northwest of Oceanside on October 16, 2019. The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office determined that he was a homicide victim who drowned after being shot and suffering blunt force trauma.
During a December 2019 interview with federal investigators, Ritze told a series of lies, including when she falsely said she had never met the victim prior to the fatal boat trip. Ritze and the victim had been in Las Vegas together 11 days prior to the murder.
“Ritze’s crime has left a grieving mother, grieving widow, grieving brothers, a grieving sister, and two fatherless small children,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “Ritze continued on with her life after murdering Dao as though nothing had happened, continuing to party with Le…and assisting Le with tracking [the victim’s] grieving widow with GPS trackers.”
At the conclusion of a 17-day trial in December 2021, a federal jury found Le guilty of first-degree murder within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, conspiracy to commit murder, and using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. In February 2022, Le pleaded guilty to eight narcotics-related felonies, including distribution of cocaine and methamphetamine.
Le faces a mandatory sentence of life in federal prison at his July 17 sentencing hearing.
The Coast Guard Investigative Service and the FBI investigated this matter.
Assistant United States Attorneys Greg Scally and Gregory W. Staples of the Santa Ana Branch Office are prosecuting this case.