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Nineteen-year-old Riverside resident eligible for death penalty, nephew faces life in prison

On September 9, a criminal grand jury indictment was unsealed charging Darren Zesk, a 19-year-old resident of Riverside, with murder and two special circumstances – that the victim was intentionally killed because of his race and lying in wait. Based on the two special circumstances, Zesk is now eligible for the death penalty.

Darren Zesk is accused of firing the shots that killed 18-year-old Massai Cole a party in Moreno Valley on Feb. 1. Zesk and his nephew, Jared Zesk, were charged in February with Cole’s murder. Jared Zesk faces life in prison if convicted.

In July, a Riverside County Superior Court judge found at a preliminary hearing that there was sufficient evidence for the Zesks to stand trial for murder.

The Riverside County criminal grand jury indictment of Darren Zesk comes as a result of new evidence that was uncovered after the preliminary hearing during the ongoing investigation into Cole’s.

Cole was attending a party at a residence on Century Street in Moreno Valley on the evening of Jan. 31. Based on the investigation that followed the murder, the Zesks arrived at the party after midnight on Feb. 1. There was a fight involving Jared Zesk and he and his uncle left the party.

When the Zesks returned to the party about 1:30 a.m., investigators believe Darren Zesk specifically targeted Cole, then shot him multiple times, killing him.

Jared Zesk is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 18. Darren Zesk entered a plea of not guilty at the Sept. 9 arraignment on the grand jury indictment.

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