Advertisement
Share

Costa Mesa couple became aware they had killed Aiden Leos one week later, prosecutors say

A boy walks by a cluster of teddy bears, flowers and a sign that says "Who shot Aiden?" on a bridge overlooking the freeway.
Six-year-old Victor Flores of Orange clutches a Pokemon card for comfort while walking ahead of his family. His father said Victor was sad because he is the same age as shooting victim Aiden Leos. The family prayed and left flowers at a makeshift memorial on the Walnut Avenue overpass of the 55 Freeway on May 27 in Orange.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

As outrage grew over the fatal freeway shooting of 6-year-old Aiden Leos, the couple who would eventually be charged in the case went about their routine for a week as if nothing had happened — commuting to work on the same freeway and even threatening another driver.

Prosecutors offered chilling new details in a court filing Wednesday that shed light on the circumstances before and after Aiden’s death last month as he sat in his mother’s car on the way to school.

The suspects — Marcus Anthony Eriz, 24, and Wynne Lee, 23 — are accused of killing Aiden and driving away on the 91 Freeway.

In the days after, the couple continued commuting to work in Highland even as banners appeared on the freeway fences beside them, asking, “Who shot Aiden Leos?” One day, a Tesla driver reported that Eriz brandished a gun at him while the couple drove to work on the 91 Freeway. Not until a co-worker informed Eriz of the boy’s death a week later did he realize that he had killed someone, according to court documents.

Advertisement

Prosecutors filed the motion to make the case for the co-defendants’ bail amounts, ahead of a court appearance scheduled for Friday. In requesting no bail for Eriz, prosecutors described him as “an extreme danger to the community.”

“He has shown that he cannot control his temper and he goes to extremes in the snap of a finger when he is angered,” the court document said.

Eriz is facing the possibility of life in prison after the Orange County district attorney’s office charged him with murder and discharging a gun into an occupied vehicle, with sentencing enhancements for firing a gun and causing great bodily injury or death.

Prosecutors have asked the court to establish a $500,000 bail for Lee, who is charged with one felony count of accessory after the fact and a misdemeanor count of having a concealed firearm in a vehicle.

Eriz’s attorney, public defender Randall Bethune, declined to comment. Lee’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

Wynne Lee, 23, left, and Marcus Anthony Eriz, 24, were taken into custody at their home in Costa Mesa.
(Orange County district attorney)

The couple were headed to work in the HOV lane of the 55 Freeway at about 8 a.m. on May 21 when they approached a Chevrolet Sonic, which Joanna Cloonan was driving to take her son Aiden to kindergarten, the court documents said. Lee maneuvered her Volkswagen Golf SportWagen into the lane immediately to the right of the HOV lane and then sped back into the HOV lane and cut off Cloonan, gesturing a peace sign in the process, according to the documents.

After a few miles, when Cloonan exited the HOV lane to make her way to the 91 Freeway, she passed the SportWagen and raised her middle finger at Lee and Eriz, the documents said.

Advertisement

Eriz told police in a June 6 interview that he reacted angrily to being “flipped off,” according to the court documents. He grabbed his loaded Glock 17 9-millimeter pistol, readied it, then rolled down the passenger window and shot at Cloonan’s car.

“The very minor act on the part of Ms. Cloonan of showing him her middle finger resulted in him using deadly force against her and her son,” prosecutors said in the filing.

The bullet entered Cloonan’s car from the rear, striking her son through his back. She heard the bang of the gun and then her son’s cry: “Ow.” As Cloonan pulled over and took the dying boy into her arms, Lee continued driving onto the 91 Freeway to Highland, where the couple completed a day of work, according to the court documents.

Aiden was taken to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, where he was declared dead at 8:39 a.m. The boy’s death sparked a community surge of support, with hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring in to support his family and contribute to a reward for finding and arresting the suspects. A plaque in his honor is set to be installed at the Orange County Zoo.

Advertisement

“It could’ve happened to any one of us,” Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said while holding up a photograph of Aiden during a news conference last week. “We all drive the freeways of Southern California. We’ve all gotten upset at other motorists, other motorists have gotten 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.”

Aiden Leos was fatally shot while riding in his mother’s car on the 55 in Orange. Two people have been arrested in the alleged road rage incident.

In another encounter after the shooting, Lee was again driving to work on the 91 eastbound with Eriz in the front passenger seat when the driver of a blue Tesla made Eriz angry, according to the documents. Eriz, who prosecutors said regularly carried his loaded Glock pistol with him, brandished a gun at the driver. Before driving away, the man told the couple that he had called the police.

“This brazen act of threatening other commuters with a loaded firearm shows this Court that [Eriz] cannot control his emotions and the smallest event can set him into a deathly rage,” prosecutors said in the court filing.

Advertisement

The couple’s routine changed on May 28 when a co-worker told Eriz that their Volkswagen Golf SportWagen was the same that police had identified as the suspects’ car in the recent road rage incident, according to the court documents.

Eriz told investigators that he then found the story about Aiden’s death on the internet and “‘immediately’ knew he was responsible for the boy’s death,” the court documents said.

He hid the vehicle in the garage of one of his relatives in Whittier. Then the couple began to drive Eriz’s red truck to work, lying to family members about the Volkswagen, court documents said.

After learning of Aiden’s death, the documents said, Eriz and Lee began to look for new jobs. Eriz texted his old boss at a Corona auto body shop, which he had reportedly left in January, asking for his job back, according to a KCBS-TV Channel 2 report.

Advertisement

On June 3, Eriz shaved his beard and began to wear his hair tied back, the court documents said.

Raised in Weaverville, near Redding, Eriz often shared content on social media about cars and guns, and owned several firearms, including the Glock, an AR and a revolver. He posted several pictures and videos of himself shooting an array of assault-style rifles and pistols outdoors and at a shooting range — evidence that he was a skilled marksman, prosecutors said.

Lee grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, where she graduated early from high school, danced and spoke about teen mental health after a difficult battle with depression, according to a 2015 profile by Kaiser Health News.

“Although Ms. Lee was not the actual shooter in this case, she is still a danger to the public because she assisted Defendant Eriz after he committed his crimes,” the court document said.


Advertisement