Jury recommends death for Florida man who killed man he thought was drug dealer

Christian Cruz convicted of first-degree murder, felony murder


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A jury has recommended death for a Florida man convicted in the kidnapping and fatal shooting of a man he mistakenly thought was a drug dealer.

The jury, made up of six men and six women, unanimously recommended the death sentence for 25-year-old Christian Cruz following a three-day sentencing hearing, according to State Attorney R.J. Larizza.

[RELATED: Florida man convicted in slaying of man he thought was drug dealer]

Larizza said the decision brings them closer to justice for the victim.

"The defendant in this case beat, bound, gagged, robbed and shot the victim execution-style in the head. Then the defendant left the victim for dead in a ditch by the side of the road. Ten days after this horrific robbery and murder, the defendant robbed a Hungry Howie's Pizza -- pistol-whipping the workers in the process. The jury's unanimous death recommendation brings us one step closer to holding the defendant accountable for his actions," Larizza said. 

Cruz was found guilty last week of first-degree murder and felony murder. The same jurors who convicted him recommended the death penalty Thursday.

Authorities say Cruz and Justen Charles, 30, broke into a Deltona apartment in August 2013. They grabbed Christopher Jemery, 25, threw him in the trunk of a car, took him to a wooded area in Sanford and shot him in the head, offcials said.

Investigators say Cruz and Charles had been planning to rob a drug dealer who had previously lived in the apartment but moved out.

Charles is still awaiting trial.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.