SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- The mother of a 6-year-old boy who was killed in a road-rage shooting in Orange County gave tearful testimony Monday recalling her son's final moments after a bullet pierced her vehicle on the 55 Freeway.
Aiden Leos was fatally shot on May 21, 2021, 10 days after his birthday. He was sitting in a booster seat and his mother, Joanna Cloonan, was driving him to kindergarten at the time of the shooting.
Marcus Anthony Eriz, now 26, is on trial for Aiden's murder. Closing statements are expected Wednesday.
Cloonan testified that the shooting happened after an encounter with another vehicle on the freeway.
She was driving in the carpool lane when she noticed another vehicle, a white Volkswagen SportWagen, approaching fast behind her. The VW swerved and then cut in front of her so close she had to hit her brakes. She was afraid and decided to get out of the HOV lane to avoid being near the other vehicle.
She found herself side by side with the other car and gave them a middle finger before looking to separate from them.
Moments later she heard something hit her car and her son cry out in pain.
"I heard a noise that sounded like a big rock hit the car," Cloonan recalled. "I heard my son say 'Ow'. I looked behind me and his head was hanging down."
"I immediately pulled over to the side of the freeway. I attempted to get him out of his car seat. I noticed that he was dying very quickly. I put my hand on his belly. I put him close to my body to try to save his life and I called 911."
Soon, bystanders, and then police and paramedics were all trying to help. They brought Aiden to Children's Hospital Orange County.
"I remember being surrounded. I couldn't see what was going on with him. I looked at the back of my car and saw a hole. And I asked a man, 'Is that a bullet hole? Is that what happened? and he said, 'It appears to be so.'"
Toward the end of her testimony, Cloonan was shown a picture of Aiden and she began crying on the stand.
Aiden was pronounced dead at the hospital. The shooting triggered a massive manhunt that eventually resulted in the arrest of Eriz and his girlfriend, Wynne Lee.
Investigators determined Lee was driving and Eriz was the passenger who allegedly shot at Cloonan's vehicle.
Eriz's murder trial started in Orange County last week, while Lee has a pretrial hearing scheduled for next month.
Earlier Monday, prosecutors played a recording of Eriz's interrogation with investigators.
Eriz told them the incident started as he and Lee were driving on the freeway. He said she pulled into the HOV lane in front of another vehicle that was approaching. He said the driver of the other vehicle - later determined to be Aiden's mother, Joanna - flipped them off.
He acknowledged to investigators that he reached into the backseat of the vehicle behind Lee in the driver's seat and grabbed his gun, then shot at the other vehicle "for some reason."
He couldn't recall if he stuck the gun out the window or just fired from inside the vehicle but said he just fired without really taking time to aim deliberately.
He said Lee was upset with him afterward.
When asked why he did it, all he could say was: "I don't have an answer. Because I'm stupid. I didn't think of anything. I didn't think of the consequences or anyone."
Last week during opening arguments, Eriz's defense attorney said his client did not intend to kill anybody.
"Marcus Eriz, despite what the district attorney wants to tell you, despite capitalizing on all the emotion in the room - you see Mr. Eriz had no intent to kill anybody. Mr. Eriz is not a murderer," defense attorney Randall Bethune said.
But at the opening of the trial, Orange County Deputy District Attorney Dan Feldman argued the defendant knew what he was doing and now must face the consequences of his actions.
"This is an expression by Mr. Eriz of his callous and total disregard for human life, for Aiden's life," Feldman said.
Eriz, who is being held without bail, has pleaded not guilty to murder and discharging a firearm at a vehicle. He faces 40 years to life in prison if convicted.
Lee was charged with being an accessory after the fact and possessing a concealed firearm in a vehicle. Her pretrial hearing is scheduled for Feb. 9.