DOWNEY - After months of silence, Theresa Ford is speaking out, thanking the community for its emotional and financial support in the wake of the highly-publicized double murder that claimed the lives of her daughter and husband. "I never expected so much support, the community has been so supportive," Ford said Monday. "Between my school colleagues and the brownie girl scout troop...it's been the village."
Last May, Emily Ford, an instructional aide in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, was ordered by the court to pick up her then-7-year-old daughter from her ex-husband's Costa Mesa home after he failed to appear at a family court hearing.
That evening, when Ford and her father, 62-year-old Russell Ford approached the home, ex-husband Robert Allan Lehmann opened fire with a semiautomatic handgun killing the Fords.
"He was very controlling, but nobody guessed," said Theresa Ford. "My husband went with her that day and stood behind her for support."
Last month, a jury convicted Lehmann of two felony counts of special circumstances murder with sentencing enhancements for the use of a deadly weapon, multiple murders, and lying in wait. The 37-year-old now faces a possible double life prison term at his scheduled sentencing on Nov. 2 in Santa Ana.
While Ford stopped short of calling the sentence vindicating, she did acknowledge that it is reassuring for her and her family.
"It doesn't really fix anything, but it's one less thing to have nightmares about," she said. "I'm very protective of my granddaughter. Knowing that he will never be out of jail is just one less thing to be on my mind."
Ford is now raising her 8-year-old granddaughter after being awarded permanent custody soon after the murders.
"She's a strong little girl," Ford whispered soberly. "My other daughter and I cling to each other. There's no way to overstate the kindness of folks."
Ford, who has worked for the Downey Unified School District for 34 years and served as principal of Rio Hondo Elementary School for the last 5 years, felt it was important to acknowledge the community for its support.
"Downey is a small city with a big population," Ford said. "I'm very glad to be in Downey. I want to say thank you to everyone, the Assistance League of Downey, AYSO soccer, the schools, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. The emotional support has been incredible."
********** Published: October 18, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 27