SANTA ANA, Calif. (CNS) — Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer issued a stern warning Thursday to a pair of unidentified suspects sought in the road-rage shooting death of a 6-year-old boy on the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway in Orange, as the reward posted in the case swelled to $310,000.
Also on Thursday California Highway Patrol officers released for the first time a photo of the suspect vehicle that shows it appears to be a white Volkswagen Golf Sportswagen with non-tinted windows.
It appears to be a 2018 or 2019 model, but investigators have not been able to obtain a license plate from the snapshot, said CHP Officer Florentino Olivera.
Also on Thursday, CHP investigators reported the suspect vehicle was last seen going eastbound on the Riverside (91) Freeway toward Riverside, Olivera said.
Appeals for tips from the public have helped investigators gather the new information, Olivera said.
Meanwhile, at a news conference in Orange, Spitzer gave the woman and man who were in the car at the time of last Friday's shooting of Aiden Leos 24 hours to turn themselves in.
"We're not messing around anymore," Spitzer said. "So you choose door A or door B ... Door A, we listen to what you have to say."
Door B, he explained, involved throwing the book at the killer and anyone who helped him evade justice.
"You've got about 24 hours to turn yourself in or that door is closing on your future. I'm running out of patience," Spitzer said, adding that "the longer this goes on, the less sympathetic I will be to understand you."
Spitzer said it appears the woman was driving the suspect vehicle while a male passenger opened fire, killing the Costa Mesa youngster, who was in the booster seat of his mother's car as she drove him to kindergarten at Calvary Chapel school in Yorba Linda.
Spitzer said prosecutors in the county have solved cases going back 40 years and "will never rest" on holding the boy's killer accountable.
"To the woman driving the car, you need to turn yourself in," Spitzer said. "You are an accomplice... It's not going to get any better for you."
Then, addressing the killer, he said, "You have to spend the rest of your life knowing you killed a 6-year-old boy."
Spitzer said he would meet with California Highway Patrol investigators Thursday afternoon to go over what evidence they have collected so far.
"I'm hoping I am pleased at that briefing," Spitzer said.
The reward for the capture and conviction of the killer grew to $310,000 on Thursday. Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner put up a $50,000 match to the family's crowdfunded $50,000 and "it snowballed from there," Wagner said at the news conference.
"This community is coming together to see justice done," Wagner said.
Supervisor Katrina Foley contributed $50,000 from her office's discretionary budget, as well. The Board of Supervisors approved the $100,000 in contributions on Tuesday, and the Costa Mesa City Council is expected to add to the reward when it meets next week.
A consortium of local business leaders, including Bill Skeffington, CEO of Ben's Asphalt, have offered up the rest, and he predicted the reward "will continue to grow."
Skeffington added, "To the woman driving the car. Turn yourself in. Todd's a great guy and I'm sure something can be worked out."
Anyone with relevant information was asked to call the California Highway Patrol at 714-567-6000. The CHP also has set up the firstname.lastname@example.org email to receive tips. Anonymous tips may also be phoned in to 800-TELL-CHP.
Another website has also been created to help collect tips from the public — www.aiden-reward.com.
"You might be in line for a reward, but you will certainly have done the right thing," Wagner said.
It's possible that multiple people will share in the reward depending on how information leads to an arrest and conviction, he said.
Aiden's 15-year-old sister, Alexis Cloonan, said "thank you on behalf of my mother" as she urged anyone with information to get in touch with investigators.
"Please, if you saw anything at all, please come forward," she said.
Another family member, Carole Ybanez, told reporters at the news conference, "We are holding up every morning because of you all."
She also thanked the CHP and added, "We are a little numb today ... This is truly horrible."
Joanna Cloonan was driving a silver Chevrolet Cruze sedan with her son in the right rear passenger booster seat when another driver opened fire between 7:55 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. on the northbound Costa Mesa Freeway between the Garden Grove (22) Freeway and Chapman Avenue.
Reyes Valdivia and his wife stopped to help when they spotted Cloonan on the freeway shoulder pulling her son out from the passenger side of the car. He said she told them that when she tried to switch lanes to exit, a sedan with a man and woman inside cut her off and she gestured to them and proceeded into the exit lane, which is when the bullet entered the left side of trunk and struck her son.
She called 911 and the boy was rushed to Children's Hospital of Orange County, where he was pronounced dead, said California Highway Patrol Officer John De Matteo. He said it's unknown how many rounds were fired from the suspects' car, which may be a newer model, possibly white "wagon-style" Volkswagen sedan.