It is an excruciating time for the Lepe family and all of the families impacted by the Valley killing spree that left four people dead, including their much loved “Susie.”
Gerry Dean Zaragoza, the lone suspect, is also accused of injuring two others.
Susie’s mother is inconsolable. Susie's brother Cuco, who is a pillar for the family, said it was his two sisters who returned from the hospital and broke the painful news to their mother at the family home in the City of San Fernando.
Cuco said he sat outside of the house in his truck for a few minutes; it was hard to bring himself to go inside. His mother broke down when she saw him. Family members had already disconnected the television cable to spare Susie’s mother the grizzly details.
They are all struggling right now with the intense loss, and to understand what would cause anyone to go on a killing spree.
“This crime is really bigger than all of us. Women who allow these [kinds of ] men into their lives,” Cuco said. “The signs are always there, but women may not want to see that.” Sometimes women have low self-esteem, he speculated.
There are still so many unknowns for Susie's family.
The painful irony for Cuco is that he and Susie were very close and he had no idea that she had a “madman” in her life.
There were times when Cuco had stayed at her house. If he had a bit of extra time, he'd go to visit her. If she needed something, she’d call him. But she never told him about dating Zaragoza, perhaps because she knew he'd disapprove. He has since learned that she broke off her relationship with Zaragoza, but he continued to harass her.
After Zaragoza shot and killed his own father and brother, he went to the Shell station in North Hollywood where Susie worked the 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. overnight shift, 4-5 times a week.
Cuco said it's unclear how he was able to get to her because after a certain hour, the doors to the clerks' area are locked. He wonders if at some point she may have unlocked the door and gone outside to throw trash away, or went outside to communicate with a maintenance worker who was outside of the locked area. She had broken off their relationship, but maybe she could have gone out of her safety area to see what he wanted.
Every possible scenario has rolled through Cuco’s head, including Zaragoza just waiting for that window of opportunity to kill her. Zaragoza also critically wounded a man working with her, continued on and attempted to rob someone at a Bank of America, and then randomly shot and killed a bus rider on the Orange line.
A go fund me page has been set up for her funeral at San Fernando Mission Cemetery and for her children who are now left behind.
Cuco, who describes his sister as being “beautiful inside and out,” said now it’s his aim to bring more attention to crimes against women. Too often when women attempt to break free, there are big obstacles in front of them.
He plans on attending the next court date for Zaragoza set for Sept. 3, and will follow the upcoming court proceedings closely. Cuco is aware that Zaragoza can get the death penalty.
He hasn’t been a supporter of the death penalty in the past he said, because he is aware of cases where people have been falsely prosecuted. When asked if his position is now the same, now that his sister's life has been taken, he pauses for a minute, then says, “My position is the same. I still feel the same way...there is no justice because she’s not here for her children. Nothing will be good enough. My mother is really despondent. He killed so many innocent people — there is no justice.”