Trial underway for man charged in road rage shooting death of California boy

Jan 18, 2024, 12:22 PM

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A prosecutor told jurors Thursday that a murder defendant acted callously in killing a 6-year-old boy in a car-to-car shooting on a Southern California freeway.

Marcus Eriz, who is now 26, is charged with killing Aiden Leos while the boy’s mother was driving him to kindergarten in Orange County. Authorities say the shot was fired after a vehicle cut off the mother and she responded with a rude gesture.

The May 21, 2021, shooting drew national attention and sparked outrage in the county of 3 million people where residents depend on a vast network of freeways to get to work and school. It also sparked a days-long search for the suspect.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Daniel Feldman said in his opening statement that the bullet ripped through the car trunk and back seat, where the boy was strapped into a booster, piercing his liver, lung and heart.

His mother pulled over on the freeway as he was bleeding and an off-duty police officer stopped to try to help, but the boy died, Feldman said.

Police interviewed Eriz when they arrested him a little more than two weeks later, and he told them he grabbed the gun and fired the shot, knowing it was dangerous, Feldman said.

“This is not a road rage case,” Feldman said. “This is an expression by Mr. Eriz of cold indifference. This is an expression by Mr. Eriz of his callous and total disregard for human life.”

Eriz’s attorney, Randall Bethune, said his client had no intention of killing anyone and didn’t realize he had done so until days later, when a co-worker commented that Eriz’s girlfriend’s car looked like the one that authorities were searching for in connection with the case.

“He had no hindsight, no clue as to the consequence of his actions in the moment,” Bethune said.

Eriz, who is being held without bail, has pleaded not guilty to murder and discharging a firearm at a vehicle.

For days after the shooting, authorities searched for a suspect and pleaded for the public’s help. They sifted through hundreds of tips and at least half a million dollars in reward money was posted.

According to police, Eriz stashed the vehicle in a relative’s garage, shaved his beard and began pulling back his hair.

He and his girlfriend were arrested outside their apartment in the Orange County city of Costa Mesa about two weeks after the shooting. Eriz and girlfriend Wynne Lee, who is charged with being an accessory after the fact and having a concealed firearm in the vehicle, are being tried separately.

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Trial underway for man charged in road rage shooting death of California boy