A Southern California couple was charged Tuesday in connection with the road-rage death of 6-year-old Aiden Leos last month, with the man being accused of murder.
Prosecutors in Orange County, California, charged Marcus Anthony Eriz, 24, with murder and shooting at an occupied vehicle. He also faces sentencing enhancements. Eriz’s girlfriend, Wynne Lee, 23, was charged with being an accessory after the fact and illegally carrying a concealed firearm.
“With respect to the charges against both, I absolutely am convinced they’re rock solid,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said.
The couple’s Tuesday arraignment was postponed to June 18 and a judge set their bail at $2 million for Eriz and $500,000 for Lee pending that hearing. Eriz could face 40 years to life in prison if convicted on all counts. Lee faces up to three years in prison and one year in county jail.
Eriz and Lee were arrested Sunday after a weekslong search for suspects in the boy’s killing on a Southern California freeway. Aiden was fatally shot May 21 on State Route 55 in Orange, southeast of Los Angeles, as his mother was driving him to kindergarten.
Authorities said they believe Lee was driving and Eriz fired the shot that killed the boy.
According to the boy’s mother, Joanna Cloonan, and those who stopped to help her, Cloonan made a hand gesture to a vehicle that cut her off, which then drove behind her, and someone fired into Cloonan’s vehicle. Aiden, who was sitting in the back seat, was shot in the abdomen and pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
The case stunned the region and made national news.
“It could have happened to any one of us. We all drive the freeways of Southern California,” Spitzer said Monday. “We’ve all gotten upset at other motorists; other motorists have been upset at us. I’ve thrown some gestures about myself. But it’s never come to a situation of violence, and certainly not in my realm or your realm to the loss of a life.”
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California Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Don Goodbrand said Monday authorities have recovered the weapon used in the attack and the vehicle in which the suspects were riding, a white Volkswagen Golf SportWagen.
Police had appealed to the public for information on the case and offered up to a $500,000 reward, and Goodbrand said authorities received several tips that were useful in the investigation. It’s unclear whether anyone will receive reward money or how much. Goodbrand declined to answer questions about the reward.
The Los Angeles Times reported investigators identified the couple after getting a tip and enhancing an image of the vehicle’s license plate. They also discovered both commuted to work in the Inland Empire region of Southern California and were in the area of the shooting when it happened.
It was not immediately clear if Eriz and Lee had attorneys. They were being held in Orange County jail on $1 million bails.
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CHP Capt. Mike Harris said Monday that he spoke to Aiden’s mother about the arrests.
“I FaceTimed her,” he said. “I let her know what had taken place. She was very emotional.”
Cloonan had called for justice at a memorial service for her son the day before the arrests occurred. She said Aiden brought a “insurmountable” joy to her life.
“Although it won’t bring you back into our arms,” she said, “it makes me outraged that such a precious, beautiful soul did not get the opportunity to continue developing into a young man and starting a family of his own one day while accomplishing his heart’s desires.”
Contributing: Steven Vargas, USA TODAY; The Associated Press