Man, woman tied to Orange fatal freeway shooting of 6-year-old boy going to trial, judge rules

A man accused of fatally shooting a 6-year-old boy on the 55 Freeway in Orange, and the woman who authorities say was driving him at the time, will face a jury trial for their suspected roles in the road-rage confrontation, a judge ruled on Wednesday, March 30.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Larry Yellin determined there is enough evidence for Marcus Anthony Eriz to face trial for murder and firearm charges and for Wynne Lee to face trial for allegedly being an accessory after the fact in connection to the killing last year of Aiden Leos.

The judge’s ruling followed an hour-plus preliminary hearing in which a California Highway Patrol investigator described his interviews with Leos’ mother — who was driving the boy to kindergarten when he was shot — and both Lee, 24, and Eriz, 25, when they were taken into custody days later.

The details provided by Officer Kevin Futrell largely echoed descriptions previously made public in court filings by prosecutors.

Joanna Cloonan, the boy’s mother, told investigators at about 8 a.m. on May 21 she was driving north on the 55 in her Chevrolet Sonic when she was cut off and almost struck by a Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen.

The mother described the driver of the Volkswagen, who authorities have identified as Lee, making a “peace sign” toward Cloonan, the officer testified. Still angry, the mother reportedly described flipping off the occupants of the Volkswagen as she passed it near Chapman Avenue.

Moments later, the mother told the officer, she heard a loud sound, such as a rock or other object hitting her car window, and heard Aiden say “ow,” leading her to pull over.

“She looked back and saw that Aiden was bleeding from the chest,” Futrell testified.

Eriz and Lee, prosecutors say, continued their drive that day from Costa Mesa to their workplace in Highland. In the days following Aiden’s death, the two continued that commute, traveling beneath overpasses with banners asking, “Who shot Aiden?”

An undisclosed tipster who claimed to work with the pair told authorities that the two commuted in a vehicle matching the description of the car authorities were searching for. The tipster also reported that Eriz had altered his appearance by shaving off his beard, and noted that the two suddenly began coming to work in a different vehicle.

“All of it came together and clicked for the tipster,” Futrell said.

On June 6, more than two weeks after the shooting, the couple was arrested at their Costa Mesa home.

During his CHP interview, Eriz described the mother as “screaming and yelling” at them and said he “for some reason” decided to reach for his gun and shoot at the other car, the officer testified.

Eriz said he carried the firearm because in his words “there are so many hostile drivers on the road,” the officer added.

The officer also said Lee immediately after the shooting yelled at Eriz, “What did you do?”

The officer added that Eriz claimed he didn’t learn of Aiden’s death until days later when a co-worker mentioned Lee’s vehicle matched the one police were looking for and he looked up an online article.

“He said he immediately knew it was him and had a panic attack,” Futrell said.

The officer said when Eriz told Lee what he had learned, she told the investigator she responded: “You don’t know for a fact it was you.” Asked during a police interview whey she didn’t come forward sooner, Lee said “she was afraid of incriminating herself … or she wasn’t sure it was them.”

“She seemed to be in denial it was them,” Futrell testified.

Eriz’s attorney, Randy Bethune, questioned the officer about what exactly Aiden’s mother saw at the time of the shooting.

“She never saw a gun?” Bethune asked.

“No, sir,” the officer answered.

“She never saw Eriz reaching with a gun?”

“No, sir.”

Lee’s attorney challenged the accessory charges, noting that Eriz, not Lee, was the one who hid Lee’s car at a relative’s home in Whittier. He also said that it was Eriz, not Lee, who brought the gun into Lee’s car.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Dan Feldman argued that Lee was aware that Eriz had brought the gun into her car before, and she allowed him to hide her car after the shooting.

Judge Yellin ruled that the two will face the charges as filed by prosecutors: Eriz is facing felony counts of murder and discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle, both with gun enhancements, while Lee is facing a felony count of accessory after the fact and a misdemeanor count of having a concealed firearm in a vehicle.

Both will return to court for an arraignment on April 12. In the meantime, Eriz will remain in jail custody, while Lee is free on bail.

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