Jurors deadlocked today over whether to recommend a death sentence for a man convicted of kidnapping and murdering two Redondo Beach men in 1994.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Curtis Rappe declared a penalty phase mistrial for Howard Bloomgarden and excused the panel, which began deliberations May 20.
Prosecutors are due back in court July 11, when they are expected to decide whether to pursue a death sentence instead of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Bloomgarden, 46, was convicted May 15 of two counts of first-degree murder for the Oct. 26, 1994, strangulation deaths of Peter Kovach, 26, and Ted Gould, 29, along with two counts of kidnapping for extortion.
Jurors also found true the special circumstance allegation of murder during the course of a kidnapping.
Authorities believe Kovach was targeted after having a falling-out with Bloomgarden over a drug operation.
Gould, who worked with Kovach at the Galleria Telecom store, was abducted along with Kovach. Deputy District Attorney Geoff Lewin told jurors that Gould was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and unsuccessfully pleaded for his release.
Kovach and Gould were taken to a motel in Lawndale, where they were strangled by Kenneth Friedman, who was sentenced to death in December 2005. Their bodies were dumped in San Diego County.
In his closing argument, the prosecutor painted Bloomgarden as the mastermind behind the plan, calling the evidence against him "absolutely overwhelming."
Friedman died in August 2012 on San Quentin's Death Row of an apparent suicide. Several other defendants were convicted in the case and sentenced to lesser prison terms.
--City News Service