Indio carjack killers' sentencing delayed, Contreras and Cervantes could receive death penalty

Carlos Contreras, 34, and Daniel Cervantes, 35, could face the death penalty for the May 7, 2008, murder of Daniel Kuzawa.

INDIO, Calif. - Due to scheduling issues, the penalty phase of trial for one of two men who carjacked, kidnapped, robbed and killed a 55-year-old Indio resident was postponed today and pushed back to next week.

Carlos Contreras, 34, and Daniel Cervantes, 35, could face the death penalty for the May 7, 2008, murder of Daniel Kuzawa. Earlier this month, jurors convicted the two men of the murder and found true special circumstance allegations of murder in the commission of a robbery, kidnapping and carjacking, along with other crimes committed in the weeks before and after the killing. 

Both defendants are being tried together, but with separate juries. In the trial's penalty phase, the panels will  recommend whether the men should be sentenced to death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Contreras' penalty phase, initially scheduled to begin today, starts March 4 and Cervantes' likely will start March 5.

Kuzawa was found by a field worker. He had been shot at close range in the head and chest on the dirt shoulder of Pierce Street south of Airport Boulevard. His wrists and neck were bound with electrical cable.

Deputy District Attorney Manny Bustamante said Cervantes held a gun on the victim while Contreras tied up Kuzawa in his own truck as he pleaded for his life.

Kuzawa's credit card was used at a Shell station in Coachella early on the morning of May 7. Contreras was arrested that night, after authorities stopped a vehicle in which he was a passenger. While trying to flee, he disposed of a gun believed to be the weapon used to kill Kuzawa, Bustamante said.

A search of the Coachella home where Contreras lived with his parents turned up an ATM receipt from the Fastrip station and spools of cable of the type used to bind Kuzawa, according to Bustamante.

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