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Man sentenced to death for 2008 murder

Daniel Cervantes was found guilty of carjacking, robbing, and killing Daniel Kuzawa

Indio, Calif. - A death sentence was handed down for one of two men convicted of carjacking, kidnapping, robbing and killing a 55-year-old Indio man.

Daniel Cervantes, 35, was convicted last month of the May 7, 2008, murder of Daniel Kuzawa, and jurors found true special circumstance allegations of murder in the commission of a robbery, kidnapping and carjacking.

The same panel that convicted Cervantes recommended a death sentence over life in prison without parole, which was upheld by Riverside County Superior Court Judge David B. Downing. 

Co-defendant Carlos Contreras, 34, was also convicted in Kuzawa's murder and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 26.  

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 in Thermal. His wrists and neck were bound with electrical cable.

Deputy District Attorney Manny Bustamante told jurors that 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 later used at a Shell station in Coachella. Surveillance video from the Fastrip station, where an automated teller machine transaction was traced, showed Kuzawa's truck pulling up to the pumps.

Cervantes, who was driving, got out to speak to Contreras, who was driving another vehicle, Bustamante said.

In a taped interview played in court, Cervantes described Kuzawa being put in his truck, being tied up and later pulled out of the vehicle and left in Thermal. When asked why Kuzawa was pulled from the truck, Cervantes told investigators it was because "Carlos tied him up."

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