A man and woman were charged Tuesday in the tragic freeway shooting death of a 6-year-old boy who was on his way to kindergarten when he was struck by gunfire on an Orange County freeway.
Marcus Anthony Eriz is charged with murder and discharge of a gun at an inhabited dwelling, with sentencing enhancements for causing death to the victim, 6-year-old Aiden Leos.
Wynne Lee is charged with a felony count of being an accessory after the fact and a misdemeanor count of concealed firearm in a vehicle.
Both were scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon, but that was postponed to a later date this month. Prosecutors will ask that bail be increased to $2 million for Eriz, currently held on $1 million bail. Prosecutors will ask that Lee's bail be set at $500,000, down from the current $1 million.
Eriz, 24, and Lee, 23, were arrested Sunday at their home in Costa Mesa following a search that began after the May 21 shooting on the 55 Freeway in Orange.
"When you put a bullet in someone's car, that's an inherently dangerous act that could result in someone crashing or someone hit by a bullet," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said at a news conference Monday.
The bullet that killed Aiden entered through the trunk of his mother's car before striking the boy, who was in a booster seat in the car's back seat.
The sentence for shooting into an occupied vehicle is seven years in prison, but it carries a sentencing enhancement that could add 25 years to life, Spitzer said.
"Then, of course, there's the theory of murder for doing a reckless act that results in the death of another human being," Spitzer said. "These are the potential charges we're looking at."
At a news conference last month days after the May 21 shooting, Spitzer warned the defendants to turn themselves in. He suggested that he might be more lenient in his filing decision, but "they did not take me up on that offer."
"At this point I have absolutely no sympathy or empathy whatsoever," Spitzer said at the news conference.
It was not immediately clear whether the suspects have attorneys.
Police said they recovered the vehicle involved in the crime as well as the weapon, CHP Assistant Chief Don Goodbrand said. He declined to comment further on the evidence. The items were not at the arrest site, highway patrol Assistant Chief Don Goodbrand told reporters Monday.
The shooting occurred around 8 a.m. May 21. Joanna Cloonan and her son Aiden were traveling north on the 55 Freeway in a Chevrolet Sonic in Orange. The shooting followed a road rage confrontation with the occupants of a white Volkswagen station wagon -believed to be Eriz and Lee.
Passersby Reyes Valdivia and his wife stopped to help when they spotted Cloonan on the freeway shoulder pulling her son from the passenger side of the car. He said she told them that when she tried to switch lanes to exit, a vehicle with a man and woman inside cut her off.
She made a gesture to them and proceeded into the exit lane. Authorities believe the driver of the Volkswagen maneuvered behind Cloonan's car, and one of the occupants fired a shot into the truck, striking Aiden.
Cloonan called 911 and the boy was rushed to Children's Hospital of Orange County, where he died.
“In a civilized community, we should be able to drive our kid to school and not worry that they’re going to be shot in the back,” said Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars, some from community businesses, were raised as a reward for information during the search for the shooter. Speaking to reporters Monday, Spitzer said he understood why the case reverberated with the public.
"It's because it could have happened to any one of us," he said. "We all drive the freeways in Southern California. 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 in your realm to the loss of a life."
The suspects' Sunday arrests at their home in Costa Mesa came one day after Aiden's funeral in Yorba Linda. Highway patrol 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.
Eriz's occupation was listed as an auto detailer, according to jail records. Lee is unemployed. Eriz's Instagram page states that he works for an auto body shop in Corona, but the owners of that company said he hasn't worked there since January.
It was not immediately known who, if anyone, will claim the $500,000 in reward money.