An Orange County jury on Thursday discovered the Costa Mesa man responsible of second-degree homicide, three years after he fired a single shot right into a passing automobile throughout morning rush hour on the 55 Freeway, killing a 6-year-old boy who was strapped right into a booster seat. Eriz, 26, faces 40 years to life in jail.
At his weeklong trial in Santa Ana, Eriz didn’t dispute that he fired the shot that killed Aiden Leos on Might 21, 2021. The case got here all the way down to his diploma of culpability, along with his public defender arguing that he was responsible of a lesser cost of voluntary manslaughter.
Eriz was a passenger in his girlfriend Wynne Lee’s Volkwagen that morning as they crossed the 55 Freeway close to Chapman Avenue, headed to work collectively. Joanna Cloonan was driving her son Aiden to kindergarten in her Chevrolet when Lee reduce her off, after which — by Cloonan’s account — flashed a sarcastic peace signal.
Cloonan responded by flashing a center finger on the Volkswagen as she handed. She remembered Eriz smiling at her from the passenger seat, then listening to a loud sound as she pulled away. It was a single bullet from Eriz’s gun, passing by way of the trunk and thru her son’s physique.
“As she drove away, in essentially the most cowardly trend, [Eriz] fired a spherical at her to show her a lesson,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Daniel Feldman instructed jurors in his closing argument Wednesday. By his personal admission to police, Eriz “wasn’t even offended” in the mean time, however needed to ship the message “to not disrespect him.”
“He smiled, squeezed off that spherical, and went about his day,” Feldman mentioned.
An intense 16-day manhunt ensued, with banners asking “WHO SHOT AIDEN?” hanging from freeway overpasses. A witness had snapped a blurry image of the automobile, and suggestions poured in. When police interrogated Eriz, he mentioned he had been carrying a gun for months as he commuted to his job at a collision restore store.
“Folks have been much more hostile on the highway recently, so I’ve all the time had my Glock with me,” Eriz mentioned.
When the Chevrolet driver flipped him off, he grabbed it, racked it, opened the window and fired.
“You knew that there was a excessive chance that that sort of motion would kill any individual?” an investigator requested.
“And you continue to did it?”
Eriz mentioned that Cloonan had been “simply hostile in direction of us,” however had posed no precise hazard.
At trial, the prosecutor didn’t need to show that Eriz meant to kill Leos, and even was conscious that the boy was within the automobile. The second-degree homicide cost hinged on the idea of “implied malice,” that means he knew capturing the gun was life-endangering.
Removed from being “some little boy who picked up his dad’s gun,” the prosecutor instructed jurors, Eriz handed a firearms security course, personally put in modifications on his Glock, and practiced with the weapon.
Deputy Public Defender Randall Bethune instructed jurors the capturing was the “rash” selection of a younger man who had acted underneath the provocation of the freeway confrontation, and who instructed police, when requested why he did it, “I’ve no reply why.”
The smile Eriz directed at Cloonan earlier than the capturing was not a masks of chilly indifference, Bethune mentioned, however “a sheepish sorry-about-that” as apology for his girlfriend’s driving.
When he realized police have been searching for him, Eriz hid his girlfriend’s automobile as a result of he didn’t need to get her in bother, the protection lawyer mentioned, however he didn’t flee. “He didn’t disappear up into the mountains of Weaverville, the place he’s from,” Bethune mentioned. “He didn’t go to Mexico. He stayed.”
The protection lawyer mentioned Eriz “feels horrible about what he’s carried out.” Eriz spent a lot of the trial, at which he declined to testify, staring straight forward with a clean expression.
A decide will take into account his sentencing at a listening to set for April 12.