Accessory in Fatal Shooting of 6-Year-Boy on OC Freeway Pleads Guilty

Accessory in Fatal Shooting of 6-Year-Boy on OC Freeway Pleads Guilty

The Orange County Central Justice Center in Santa Ana, Calif., on Sept. 18, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

City News Service

City News Service

4/27/2024

Updated: 4/27/2024

SANTA ANA, Calif.—A woman who was driving during a road-rage confrontation on the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway that ended with her boyfriend firing a shot into another car, killing a 6-year-old boy in a car seat, pleaded guilty April 26 to being an accessory to the crime and carrying a concealed weapon in the vehicle.
Wynne Lee, 26, was immediately sentenced to four years behind bars—the maximum punishment—but with custody credits and time she has already spent on home confinement, Ms. Lee has already served out her sentence.
Ms. Lee had 2,106 days credit, far outstripping the 1,460 days her prison sentence would have been. The excess credits would cover any probation as well.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard King said he would not grant probation anyway. The plea was an open one without any guarantees on sentencing from the judge or prosecutors.
On April 12, Ms. Lee’s boyfriend, 26-year-old Marcus Anthony Eriz of Costa Mesa, was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison for firing the shot that killed Aiden Leos on May 21, 2021, on the freeway in Yorba Linda.
The boy’s parents did not wish to attend Friday’s hearing, Senior Deputy District Attorney Dan Feldman said.
Judge King said he would not have granted probation to Ms. Lee because she contributed to a crime of “great violence” on a victim who was “particularly vulnerable.”
“The impact on the mother is very aggravating” in the case, Judge King said.
The judge noted that at some point, Ms. Lee knew Mr. Eriz had killed Aiden and yet took steps to help her boyfriend evade authorities. Judge King also pointed out, however, that Ms. Lee had no prior criminal record.
As for another judge signing off on home confinement for Ms. Lee after she was charged, Judge King said, “It’s not my job to address that. It happened. The defendant gets credit for that as if she were incarcerated.”
Mr. Eriz was convicted in January of second-degree murder and firing at an occupied vehicle. Jurors also found true allegations of personal use of a handgun.
Aiden’s mother, Joanna Cloonan, was driving her Chevrolet Sonic with the child strapped into a child seat in the back seat of the vehicle, taking the boy to kindergarten in Yorba Linda. At about 8 a.m., she and her son were cut off by the defendants in a Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen with Ms. Lee behind the wheel of the car. Ms. Lee made a peace sign, which Ms. Cloonan took as sarcastic, and a few miles later as she was merging over to the Riverside (91) Freeway east, she passed the defendants and gave them a middle finger, Mr. Feldman said during opening statements of Mr. Eriz’s trial.
Ms. Lee then positioned their car behind Ms. Cloonan’s, and Mr. Eriz fired a shot from a 9mm Glock that struck the Chevrolet, went into the passenger compartment and hit the boy.
Ms. Cloonan, who was northbound on the freeway, heard a loud bang that sounded like a rock striking her vehicle followed by her son’s cry, Mr. Feldman said. She immediately pulled over, the prosecutor added.
Her son, who had turned 6 a week and a half before the shooting, was bleeding from a bullet that ripped through his liver, lungs and his heart before coming out of his abdomen, Mr. Feldman said. The boy died in her arms.
Ms. Lee and Mr. Eriz, who lived together in a Costa Mesa apartment, were driving to their workplace at Gerber Glass, a collision repair shop, Mr. Feldman said. Mr. Eriz kept his loaded 9 mm gun in the car.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Larry Yellin reduced Ms. Lee’s bail from $500,000 to $100,000 on June 27, 2021. Judge Yellin said at the time that Ms. Lee was not personally accused of committing a violent act and had no criminal history, but he noted that even after the fatal shooting, she allowed Mr. Eriz to keep riding in her car with a gun, which prosecutors say he brandished at another motorist days after Aiden’s death.
Ms. Lee’s attorney, Tom Nocella, had asked that bail be reduced to $50,000. But Judge Yellin said the additional road rage allegation was a factor in setting it at double that amount. Judge Yellin also ordered that she not drive and remain in home confinement with her parents.
After it became clear to Mr. Eriz and Ms. Lee that the boy had died in the shooting, Mr. Eriz hid the Volkswagen the couple used to drive to work together daily in a family member’s garage and did not drive it again, prosecutors said.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer slammed state law for allowing day-for-day credits for defendants in home confinement.
“The day Aiden was laid to rest in his tiny casket, Wynne and Marcus were kayaking, enjoying a beautiful California summer day, knowing that Aiden would never get to play in the sunshine again,” Mr. Spitzer said in a statement. “A 6-year-old little boy is dead and instead of coming forward while the rest of Southern California was desperately searching for his killer, she helped the murderer hide critical evidence and then continued to live her life like nothing ever happened. Her behavior is despicable and I, along with our entire Orange County community, am outraged that the state legislature continues to water down our laws to give criminals charged with egregious crimes break after break.
“The fact that someone charged with being an accessory after the fact to a murder of a child is earning not only actual credits, but also good time credits while sitting at home instead of doing their time in a jail cell is disgraceful.”
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