(LOS ANGELES) — Marcus Eriz has been found guilty of murder in the Orange County, California, road rage incident that killed 6-year-old Aiden Leos in 2021.
Eriz was convicted of second-degree murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and two felony enhancements of the personal discharge of a firearm causing great bodily injury and death.
“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,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said in a statement after the verdict.
Eriz will be sentenced on April 12. The 26-year-old faces 40 years to life in prison.
On May 21, 2021, just 10 days after his birthday, Leos was shot and killed sitting in his booster seat while his mother, Joanna Cloonan, was driving him to kindergarten in Yorba Linda.
During Cloonan’s testimony this month, she said her and her son were on the 55 freeway when a white Volkswagen SportWagen cut her off abruptly while she was in the carpool lane driving northbound, according to Los Angeles ABC station KABC.
Cloonan reportedly said she got out of the carpool lane to avoid being behind the car and showed her middle finger in reaction to being cut off. After, a person in the VW opened fire through the rear of Cloonan’s car, striking Aiden in the back seat.
After a weekslong manhunt, authorities arrested then 24-year-old Marcus Eriz, and his girlfriend, Wynne Lee, then 23, at their home in Costa Mesa, California, on June 6, 2021, according to California Highway Patrol.
Investigators later determined Lee was driving and Eriz shot at Cloonan’s car that fatal day.
Lee was subsequently charged with being an accessory after the fact and possessing a concealed firearm in a vehicle. Her pretrial hearing is set for Feb. 9. Lee remains free under GPS monitoring on $100,000 bond.
“They took my son’s life away,” Cloonan told ABC News in an interview on “Good Morning America” in 2021. “He was beautiful and he was kind and he was precious, and you killed him for no reason. And I want to find them and I want there to be justice to be served for my son.”
During her January 2024 testimony, Cloonan tearfully recalled Leos’ final moments after their car was shot at.
“I heard a noise that sounded like a big rock hit the car,” Cloonan said during the trial, according to KABC-TV. “I heard my son say, ‘Ow.’ I looked behind me and his head was hanging down.”
Cloonan emotionally explained how she tried to save Leos’ life but could tell that her young son was “dying very quickly.”
“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,” she said, according to KABC.
During her testimony, Cloonan revealed how she discovered what exactly happened during the fatal incident, and that it was a gunshot through her car that took her son’s life.
“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.'”
Leos was taken to Children’s Hospital of Orange County where he was later pronounced dead.
When Cloonan was shown a photo of Leos during her testimony, she broke down in tears, according to KABC.
During the trial – which began in Orange County on Jan. 18 – prosecutors played a recording of Eriz’s original interrogation with authorities, according to KABC.
Eriz reportedly admitted that “for some reason,” after Cloonen showed her middle finger at him and Lee, he reached into the backseat of their vehicle, pulled out his gun and shot at Cloonen’s car.
When asked what the motive was behind the attack, he reportedly said, “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.”
Eriz claimed he could not remember if he shot at her car from inside his own vehicle or if he shot from outside the passenger door window. Eriz said he did not aim deliberately, according to KABC.
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