RIVERSIDE (CBSLA.com) — Four former marines who are set to stand trial may face the death penalty if they are convicted of robbing and executing a Camp Pendleton sergeant and his wife in 2008.
Sgt. Janek Pietrzak , 24, and his wife Quiana Faye Jenkins-Pietrzak, 26, were allegedly murdered by four men from Pietrzak’s squadron as the suspects robbed their French Valley residence.
Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Daniel DeLimon gave his opening statement to a jury on Monday.
“This young couple was executed inside a house they had just purchased,” DeLimon said. “They had been married 68 days. They were hog-tied, bound at the hands and feet, and shot execution-style. Quiana was sexually assaulted in front of her husband.”
Kevin Darnell Cox, 25, Emrys Justin John, 23, and Tyrone Miller, 25 could each face the death penalty if convicted. A fourth defendant, Kesaun Kedron Sykes, 25, will be tried in August.
Two separate juries are will be hearing evidence in the case — one for Cox, and another for John and Miller. DeLimon told Cox’s jury that the defendant left behind “numerous” clues pointing to his involvement in the murder, which he later confessed to sheriff’s investigators. The suspect’s shoe prints were found inside the victims’ residence, and his then-girlfriend, Melissa Buck, received Quiana’s wedding band, as well as other jewelry, as gifts.
Sgt. Pietrzak served in the Marines as a helicopter mechanic at Camp Pendleton, and worked with Miller and John, according to DeLimon. It is unknown why the defendants allegedly targeted Pietrzak and his wife, though DeLimon said the men later told associates they went to the house hoping to find “money and guns.”
Cox told investigators that he and his co-defendants initially tried to find an unblocked back entrance to the two-story residence, but were unable, and opted rather to ring the front doorbell.
According to Cox’s story, he rang the doorbell twice shortly after 1 a.m., and stepped back to let his co-defendants confront the young Marine. According to DeLimon, Pietrzak was armed with a knife when he opened the door. The defendants were armed with shotguns, and they jabbed the barrels into the victim, forcing him back from the door, and proceeded to beat him.
DeLimon said that bruises in the form of shoe impressions on Pietrzak’s back indicate that he was kicked and stomped once his attackers forced him to the ground.
The men ravaged the house for nearly 90 minutes, packing stolen items into suitcases and loading them into John’s vehicle, according to the prosecution.
DeLimon showed the jury photos of the victims, bound and gagged on their living room floor. Quiana’s eyes and mouth were wrapped with tape by Miller and Sykes before they allegedly sexually assaulted her.
Miller then reportedly ordered John to execute the victims using a 9mm Beretta handgun, which he allegedly did, shooting each of them twice in the head, suppressing the gunfire with cushions.
Authorities say the defendants then attempted to throw them off by making it appear as though the slayings had been motivated by a racial incentive.
The defendants also unsuccessfully attempted to set the house on fire by igniting materials in the kitchen and leaving the gas from the stove running, according to DeLimon.
Over the following two weeks, fellow Marines who allegedly overheard the group bragging about the killings called the sheriff’s department, and later agreed to meet with detectives away from the Marine base for fear of retaliation, according to the prosecution.
Investigators later obtained search warrants for the defendants’ living quarters and recovered nearly all of the stolen property.
Pietrzak’s dress blue Marine uniform was discovered by investigators in Miller’s Camp Pendleton home, along with four spent 9mm bullet cartridges and two 9mm pistols.
The trial is expected to last at least a month, prior to a penalty phase if the defendants are found guilty of first-degree murder. The defendants also face a sentence-enhancing allegation that a sexual assault occurred during the robbery and murder.
All four men are currently being held without bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta.
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