Man who killed 6-yr-old during road rage shooting gets the maximum sentence

The convicted murderer of a six-year-old found no pity from a California judge who handed down the maximum sentence over the road rage incident.

(Video: KCAL)

On May 21, 2021, Joanna Cloonan was driving her son Aiden Leos to kindergarten in Southern California when she was cut off by a young woman who, according to prosecutors, flashed her a peace sign in the process. A response with her own middle finger earned a fatal retort from then 24-year-old Marcus Anthony Eriz who decided to fire a handgun at Cloonan’s car from the backseat, striking the child.

In January, Eriz was convicted of the second-degree murder of Leos, and on Friday at his sentencing hearing, he learned from Superior Court Judge Richard King that he would serve the maximum sentence for his crime of 40 years to life.

During the hearing, King described the victim as “a 6-year-old in the back seat, the most vulnerable victim that you can even imagine, going to kindergarten being driven by his mom.”

“I don’t think the English language can even attempt, for anybody, to even describe what Aiden’s mother went through after he said ‘ouch.’ She pulls over, and her little boy dies in her arms,” added the judge.

At the time of the incident that occurred on the 55 freeway outside of Los Angeles, Leos was reported to have cried out, “Mommy my tummy hurts!” before Cloonan pulled over the vehicle and desperately sought help along the shoulder.

The fatal shooting prompted a two-week manhunt where both Eriz and his girlfriend, then-23-year-old Wynne Lee, were arrested.

During the hearing, Eriz was given the opportunity to speak and he voiced regret for his actions, stating in part, “He was a son, a little brother and a friend to others. He looked as if he brightened up the world everywhere he went and truly one of God’s little angels. And I am sorry for ever hurting him, and for the pain that he went through because of me.”

“He never deserved it. And neither did his family,” the convicted murderer added. Due to a sentencing enhancement, a prison term of 15 years to life included an additional 25 years to life, leaving Eriz potentially eligible for a parole hearing in 20 years.

Much like the pitiless response from Judge King, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer referred to the fatal incident as “a cold-blooded murder,” and described how, “Marcus Eriz pulled out his gun and fired it into a moving car because he wanted the world to know what he was capable of — and what he took was the life of a little six-year-old boy and the sense of security of drivers everywhere who worry that driving on our freeways could be a death sentence, not because of a crash but because of a bullet.”

“The actions Marcus Eriz took were his and his alone and as a result of those actions,” said Spitzer, “Aiden’s loved ones will never again hear Aiden’s laughs, see his smiles, or feel his hugs.”

For her alleged part in the murder, Lee was charged with felony accessory after the fact and one count of having a concealed firearm in a vehicle. She had pled not guilty to both and faces up to three years in state prison and a year in Orange County Jail should she be convicted after her own trial.

Kevin Haggerty

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