Marcus Eriz, 26, of Costa Mesa, faces a maximum sentence of 40 years to life in state prison after he was convicted of killing a six-year-old, Aiden Leos, on the 55 freeway on 21 May 2021, a press release from the office of the district attorney of Orange County, California, said.
His charges include one felony count of second-degree murder, one felony count of shooting into an occupied vehicle, and two felony enhancements of the personal discharge of a firearm causing great bodily injury and death.
“Six-year-old boys should be playing outside in the sunshine, soaking in all the magic and wonder that is boyhood, not lying dead in a tiny, child-size coffin because a man he never met decided to execute him for no conceivable reason. said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer in the press release.
“While we will never know what Aiden would have become, we know that the pursuit of justice did not end until his killer was captured and this child murderer was prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he added.
The incident occurred just after 8am on that day back in 2021, when Aiden was sitting in the back seat of his mother’s car driving northbound on the freeway and was killed while on his way to kindergarten in Yorba Linda.
Aiden’s mother, Joanna Cloonan, testified at trial she had flipped off the driver of a Volkswagen SportWagen after the driver cut her off.
After driving away, she said that she her a “large noise” followed by her son saying, “Ow,” the release stated.
She pulled over on the side of the road, took Aiden out of his car seat and called 911, yet Aiden later died at Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Orange, the release said.
District Attorney Daniel Feldman said in an opening statement at the trial that the shot pierced Aiden’s liver, lung and heart, according to the Associated Press.
The release said that the California Highway Patrol had launched into an “intense manhunt” for the shooter, searching across Southern California for the Volkswagen, which ended in Mr Eriz and the driver of the car, Wynne Lee, were arrested on 6 June 2021.
During police interviews, Mr Eriz admitted to firing a shot into the trunk of Ms Cloonan’s vehicle, but insisted he did not intend to harm anyone.
“This is not a road rage case,” Mr Feldman said. “This is an expression by Mr Eriz of cold indifference. This is an expression by Mr Eriz of his callous and total disregard for human life.”
Ms Lee, 26, has been charged with one felony count of accessory after the fact and one misdemeanour count of having a concealed firearm in a vehicle, facing a maximum of three years in state prison and one year in the Orange County jail if convicted of all charges, the release said.
She is awaiting trial and remains out of custody on GPS monitoring after posting a $100,000 in 2021.
Mr Eriz will be sentenced on 12 April.