Opening statements are slated Tuesday in the trial of a man accused of murdering a Palm Desert resident whose body was found inside his torched SUV in the Coachella desert in August 2015.
Andrew John Muir, 29, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of murder, kidnapping and arson, along with a special circumstance allegation of committing the murder in the commission of a felony.
Prosecutors say Jason Cupit, 38, was beaten and stabbed to death at an Indio home frequented by Muir prior to being left -- handcuffed -- inside his own vehicle, which was found ablaze off Vista Del Norte.
Cupit's credit card was used at two area gas stations and at a Jack in the Box restaurant on the day after his death, according to investigators. Prosecutors allege that Muir offered to buy gas and food for several people with the card.
Muir, who was arrested on Sept. 8 at the Arabia Mobile Home Park in Indio, told investigators that he found Cupit lying on the floor of the Indio home. He said he had helped Cupit buy heroin that day, but had no other connection to him, according to the prosecution's trial brief.
He allegedly admitted dragging Cupit into the victim's Rav4, which he wiped down at another location, and also told investigators that he stole a can of gasoline, parked the SUV and left the gas can inside before walking away, according to the brief.
At the Indio home, investigators say they found Cupit's blood on the floor and ceiling of the living room and in two bedrooms, as well as an aluminum baseball bat investigators allege the defendant used to beat Cupit.
Some witnesses told police that they saw Muir speeding off from the home in Cupit's SUV, while a person in the cargo area was seen popping up once or twice as the vehicle was departing the night of Aug. 13 or morning of Aug. 14. The witnesses said they then went inside the home and saw one of Muir's acquaintances, Ceferino Lara, washing and painting the walls. The prosecutor's brief did not specify whether Lara, who has since died, is believed to have taken part in the murder.
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