February 24, 2024

A Costa Mesa man who admitted to firing the gunshot that killed a 6-year-old driving within the again seat of his mother’s automobile in freeway rush-hour visitors was convicted Thursday, Jan. 25, of second-degree homicide.

Practically two and a half years after Orange County was gripped by the road-rage killing of Aiden Leos and the large two-week manhunt for the boy’s killer, a jury deliberated for about two hours earlier than discovering Marcus Anthony Eriz responsible of each homicide and capturing at an occupied motorcar.

Eriz, 26, now faces as much as 40 years to life behind bars. He confirmed no seen response as the decision was learn in Orange County Superior Courtroom, as a substitute staring straight forward.

That Eriz fired the deadly gunshot was by no means unsure throughout his trial. Jurors had been as a substitute tasked with deciding whether or not he was responsible of homicide or a lesser cost of voluntary manslaughter.

 

District Lawyer Todd Spitzer, throughout a information convention subsequent to a photograph of Aiden following the decision, described the boy’s mom “actually holding her son whose coronary heart was bleeding on the facet of the freeway … due to the reckless and simply cold-hearted habits of a person who determined he would carry a gun and when the proper time introduced itself he would use that gun to take a human life or no less than scare any person.”

Eriz, a passenger in a automobile pushed by his girlfriend, Wynne Lee, and Aiden’s mom, Joanna Cloonan, had been each heading northbound on the busy 55 Freeway in Orange. Eriz and Lee had left their Costa Mesa condo for the Highland auto-repair store they labored at; the mom was taking her son from their Costa Mesa residence to Calvary Chapel Pre-Faculty in Yorba Linda.

Lee, driving a Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen, sped up behind Cloonan’s Chevrolet Sonic within the carpool lane, abruptly moved across the Sonic after which moved again into the lane in entrance of the mom, reducing her off and brake-checking her. Lee then flashed a peace signal that the mom took as lower than real.

Scared after which angered, Cloonan acquired out of the carpool lane, pulled up subsequent to the Volkswagen and gave within the route of Lee and Eriz the center finger. The mom testified that she briefly made eye contact with Eriz, lengthy sufficient to see him smile, earlier than merging away from the Volkswagen to organize to go away the freeway.

The mom heard a loud noise she in comparison with an enormous rock hitting her automobile. Aiden, in a booster seat behind right here, exclaimed “Ow!”

The mom appeared again, noticed Aiden along with his head hanging down and pulled over to the facet of the freeway.

A single gunshot had ripped by the trunk of Cloonan’s automobile earlier than getting into Aiden’s again, touring by his liver and lung, piercing his coronary heart and exiting his proper stomach.

The mom screamed: “Aiden! Aiden! Aiden!”

She struggled to inform a 911 operator what had occurred.

An off-duty Seal Seaside police officer pulled over to carry out CPR on the boy. However he died throughout the hour.

A person driving behind the Volkswagen and Cloonan’s Chevrolet witnessed the confrontation and the capturing. He was capable of present investigators with a blurry picture that typically depicted the Volkswagen, however not in sufficient element for the license plate to be legible.

A large manhunt, headed by the California Freeway Patrol, stretched over greater than two weeks.

Two dozen banners studying “Who shot Aiden?” had been draped over overpasses in Orange County and within the Inland Empire. Legislation enforcement officers spent numerous hours going to each enterprise with safety cameras alongside the 55 Freeway. They acquired extra photographs, offering higher views of the automobile. A reward to search out these accountable for Aiden’s dying swelled to $500,000.

Based mostly on the trim and tires of the automobile, investigators recognized a number of dozen particular automobiles, apparently by dipping into the Division of Motor Automobiles’ database, together with the Volkswagen pushed by Lee and owned by her dad and mom. And a tipster stated that Lee and Eriz had been driving a automobile matching the final description authorities had put out, and added that the couple had begun going to work in Eriz’s pink pickup truck.

Legislation enforcement officers had been ready for the couple once they pulled as much as their Costa Mesa condo advanced on June 6, 2021. Minutes into his interrogation, Eriz informed investigators that Cloonan had “began performing hostile towards us,” and he responded by capturing at her automobile.

There was no proof introduced within the case that Eriz knew the boy was within the automobile, or that he meant to kill the mom.

Eriz informed police he had began carrying a gun, “as a result of folks have been performing crazier on the freeway.” Eriz stated that after being flipped off he pulled his semi-automatic handgun from a pouch behind Lee’s driver’s seat, racked a spherical, rolled down his passenger window and “popped it off” with out aiming.

“I don’t know why, I’ve no reply why, however I pulled out my Glock and pulled the set off, and it was gone,” he informed police.

Eriz stated he was unaware of Aiden’s dying, or the information studies of the manhunt, till his coworker informed him six days after the capturing that police had been trying to find a automobile that appeared just like the one he and Lee drove in. He directed police to the place he had hidden the Volkswagen — in a storage at a relative’s residence in Whittier — and to the locker at work the place he left the gun.

Senior Deputy District Lawyer Dan Feldman informed jurors throughout his closing arguments Wednesday that Eriz felt disrespected by Aiden’s mom. Eriz had been “carrying the Glock round for months, ready for somebody to get out of line,” the prosecutor stated.

“In probably the most cowardly style he fired a spherical to show her a lesson,” Feldman informed jurors. “As a result of he had sufficient of individuals getting hostile, and it was as much as him to indicate this girl to not disrespect him. …

“Mr. Eriz turned this little boy right into a query that will hang-out the residents of Orange County for 16 days,” the prosecutor added, alluding to the “Who Shot Aiden?” banners.

Eriz’s lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Randall Bethune, argued that Cloonan provoked Eriz, inflicting him to behave rashly within the warmth of ardour. Because of this, the protection lawyer argued, Eriz was responsible not of homicide however to a lesser rely of voluntary manslaughter.

“We’ve all been on the street once we’ve been reduce off, we’ve all been on the receiving finish of a finger or possibly we gave one again,” Bethune informed jurors. “None of that’s deliberative. That’s performing rashly. And we’ve all seen it or now we have all achieved it. …

“Mr. Eriz acted rashly that day, he made a split-second determination,” the protection lawyer added. “Mr. Eriz just isn’t a assassin.”

Lee, who can be 26 and faces lesser costs of being an adjunct after the very fact, can be tried individually. Her jury trial had not but been scheduled.