Opening statements begin in trial of man accused of killing 6-year-old in OC road rage shooting

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Friday, January 19, 2024
Defendant had no idea he killed boy until days later, attorney says
Opening statements began in the trial of the man accused of killing 6-year-old Aiden Leos in a road rage shooting on the 55 Freeway in Orange.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Opening statements began Thursday in the trial of the man accused of killing a 6-year-old boy in a road rage shooting on the 55 Freeway in Orange County.

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.

According to accounts from the mother and witnesses who stopped to help her, another car cut her off, and she responded with a hand gesture. The car slipped in behind her, and then someone inside fired a shot through the rear of her car.

After a two-week manhunt, Marcus Anthony Eriz, now 26 years old, and his girlfriend, Wynne Lee, were arrested in connection with the shooting.

"When they asked him about the shooting specifically, Mr. Eriz said he saw a woman extend a finger towards him," Orange County Deputy District Attorney Dan Feldman told jurors Thursday morning. "He reached into the pocket, grabbed his loaded 9-milimeter semi-automatic, racked a round, put down the automatic window. And as the car drove away, extended his arm out and fired the fatal shot."

During day one of the trial, Feldman played the emotional 911 call Aiden's mom placed after she realized her son was hurt. In addition, several people were called to testify including Seal Beach Police Sgt. Joe Garcia.

Garcia was off when he stopped a group of people on the side of the freeway the day of the shooting. He ran in to help and performed CPR on Aiden until first responders arrived.

Defense attorney Randall Bethune said 16 days after the shooting, Eriz was arrested and confessed to the shooting.

"The man who confessed had full hindsight as to what had happened," Bethune told the jury. "And he had shame. The man who pulled the trigger did not."

Eriz told Lee, who worked with him at a collision-repair business in nearby San Bernardino County, that he thought he had killed the boy, and she reassured him he hadn't, Bethune told jurors.

"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," Bethune said.

However, Feldman argued Eriz knew exactly what he was doing and must now face the consequences.

"This is an expression by Mr. Eriz of his callous and total disregard for human life, for Aiden's life," Feldman said.

The trial will resume on Monday. 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 allegedly driving the suspects' car when the confrontation occurred. She 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.

Days after Aiden Leos was fatally shot on the 55 Freeway, the suspects ​got into another traffic altercation in which the alleged shooter waved a gun at another motorist, prosecutors say.

Aiden's mom is expected to take the witness stand next week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.