A young man who joined his cousin in an alleged racially motivated shooting that took the life of an 18-year-old partygoer in Moreno Valley pleaded guilty Friday to voluntary manslaughter.
Jared Lee Zesk, 20, of Riverside, admitted the felony charge under a plea agreement with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. Zesk was originally charged with murder, but that count was reduced in the plea deal.
Superior Court Judge Matthew Perantoni scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 24 at the Riverside Hall of Justice. The stipulated term of imprisonment under the agreement is 11 years in state prison.
The defendant is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.
His cousin, Darren Peter Zesk, also 20 and from Riverside, is charged with first-degree murder, special circumstance allegations of lying in wait and perpetrating a hate crime, as well as sentence-enhancing gun and great bodily injury allegations.
Darren Zesk is being held in lieu of $2 million bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta and is slated for trial on June 20 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
He’s accused of gunning down Massai Cole of Inglewood on the night of Feb. 1, 2020.
According to evidence presented during the defendants’ preliminary hearing in July 2020, the pair were partying with others at a house in the 16500 block of Century Street, near Krameria Avenue, when a fight erupted between the Zesks and other celebrants, prompting the hosts to kick the cousins off the property.
The Zesks left, but returned 90 minutes later, and Darren Zesk allegedly shot Cole at point-blank range, firing several bullets into the victim’s upper body. He died at the scene.
The basis for the hate crime allegation was unclear.
The Zesks fled to Riverside, where Darren Zesk was arrested without incident 30 minutes later on Huston Drive, according to sheriff’s officials. Jared Zesk was taken into custody three days later in Jurupa Valley.
Neither defendant has documented prior felony convictions.