Officials say they have car, gun from shooting of 6-year-old Aiden Leos.
District attorney still mulling what charges to bring against Costa Mesa pair, who CHP says were surprised at being arrested in death of 6-year-old boy
By Nathaniel Percy, Josh Cain, Tony Saavedra and Eric Licas | Staff writers
The suspected gun and car used in the death of a 6-year-old boy last month on the 55 Freeway in Orange have been found, the California Highway Patrol said Monday, just hours after Aiden Leos was buried.
District Attorney Todd Spitzer said the driver and the passenger are scheduled to make their first court appearances today to face charges that have not yet been announced.
An emotional Spitzer said this crime has gripped the community.
“It could have happened to any one of us,” he said. “I’ve thrown gestures out myself. … I know we are all torn up about [the boy’s death].”
The district attorney, at the CHP’s Santa Ana headquarters during a Monday news conference, mentioned how he previously had asked the suspects in a May 27 public statement to come forward, which would be considered in their prosecution, and they did not.
Now, he said, the court system will take care of justice.
“Clearly, there are different legal theories and potentially different charges with respect to the driver as opposed to the front-seat passenger, and we will be more than willing to explain those when we decide what charges to bring and what the evidence shows,” Spitzer said.
Marcus Anthony Eriz, 24, and Wynne Lee, 23, were arrested Sunday at their Costa Mesa apartment after authorities, acting on a tip, followed them home, sources said. The arrests occurred a day after Aiden’s memorial service in Yorba Linda and a day before his burial.
“It’s a typical takedown you’re going to see and, yes, I would say they were surprised,” said CHP Assistant Chief Don Good brand at the news conference. “We have recovered what we believe are the weapon and automobile used in the crime.”
The station wagon and the gun were found in a different location than where the couple were arrested, but officials didn’t publicly disclose when and where they were found, nor how long they conducted surveillance on the suspects before the arrests.
The suspect vehicle is registered to Lee’s father in Diamond Bar, according to authorities and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The Volkswagen had been stashed at Eriz’s grandmother’s house in Whittier, but she is not implicated in the crime, according to authorities. The grandmother had been given a false story why she needed to store the vehicle, they said.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, joined by members of the California Highway Patrol, holds a photo of Aiden Leos at a news conference Monday in Santa Ana regarding the investigation into the shooting death of the 6-year-old. Two people have been arrested. LEONARD ORTIZ — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
The gun had been hidden at Eriz’s workplace, authorities said. They work in San Bernardino County, sources said.
The pair were being held in Orange County Jail on $1 million bail each, jail records show. CHP officials executed search warrants Sunday, authorities said. Those searches continued into Monday, said Kimberly Edds, a spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Authorities said they believe that on May 21 Lee was driving and Eriz was the one who fired the gun. The pair allegedly made an unsafe lane change, prompting a rude gesture by Aiden’s mother, Joanna Cloonan, as she drove Aiden to Calvary Chapel Yorba Linda for school.
The suspects’ car then pulled behind Cloonan’s silver sedan and, authorities said, Eriz fired at least one shot from a pistol as the cars, going north on the 55, approached the Chapman Avenue ramps.
The bullet pierced the trunk and Aiden’s booster seat and went into his back. The boy died that day at a hospital.
Nearly a week later, CHP officials publicly released a photo, apparently from a surveillance camera, of a white Volkswagen Golf Sport Wagon taken shortly after the shooting as it headed eastbound on the 91 Freeway toward Riverside County. They believed it was the suspects’ vehicle.
The photo generated numerous tips from the public, the CHP has said. A reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspects, from government and private sources, has continued to swell, reaching $500,000 by Friday.
After the arrests were made Sunday, and again during Monday’s press conference, authorities did not reveal how the suspects were identified and declined to talk about what will happen with the reward money. On Saturday, Aiden was remembered as a loving boy who wanted to make others feel good.
“He was given a gift from God to heal people’s hearts,” Joanna Cloonan said during the service.
Eddie Eriz, a cousin of Marcus Anthony Eriz who lives in Washington state, said Marcus Eriz “is the best.”
“This isn’t him at all,” said Eddie Eriz, adding Marcus Eriz loved to work on his cars and “chill with the primos.”
“I am devastated, and prayers out to the young boy and family,” Eddie Eriz said.
In Orange on Monday, an Orange County Fire Authority truck’s horn blared as it passed beneath a banner seeking justice for Aiden, while people paid their respects to the slain boy on an overpass near the scene of the shooting.
Audrey Rose, 31, of Anaheim Hills, was one of a steady stream of mourners who visited the memorial on East Walnut Avenue, along with her son, 6-yearold Nathaniel. She was driving her son to kindergarten on the 55 Freeway just like Leos’s mother was the morning he was shot.
“We were joking and kidding about the helicopters in the air,” Rose said. “But when I got home, I saw the headlines on my phone: ‘boy shot, boy killed.’ I was shocked, would never have thought that.” Rose said she believes motorists have become “a lot more aggressive” as pandemic restrictions ease, and she has been extremely cautious while driving recently, wary of angering the wrong person on the freeway.
“I don’t get it. It’s not worth it,” phlebotomist Noel Falcon, 55, of Anaheim Hills said. “We’ve all flipped people off before; nobody should lose their lives over it.”
He lives near the scene of the shooting and regularly commutes on the 55 Freeway. He left a teddy bear during one of his four visits to the memorial over the past two weeks, and has brought his children there twice.
“I tell them to hold every moment they have precious,” Falcon said, “and we grieve for the life this boy should have had.”
Staff writer Brian Rokos contributed to this story.
Nathaniel Rose, 6, visits a memorial with his mother, Audrey Rose, to pay respects Monday to Aiden Leos, a 6-year-old boy who was fatally shot May 21 on the 55 Freeway. The Roses, of Anaheim Hills, say they were on their way to school just as Aiden was on the morning he was killed. ERIC LICAS — STAFF
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