Four former Marines will stand trial for the slaying of a sergeant and his wife in the couple’s French Valley home last year, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Marine Sgt. Jan Pietrzak, 24, and his wife, Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak, 26, were found bound with duct tape and shot to death, execution style, in their living room Oct. 15. Jenkins-Pietrzak had been sexually assaulted and someone had tried to set fire to the home.
Although racist words were painted at the crime scene, investigators concluded that robbery, not race, was the motive. All four defendants are black, as was Jenkins-Pietrzak. Jan Pietrzak was white. Two of the men charged with the crime were assigned to his unit.
Emrys John, 19, Tyrone Miller, 21, Kevin Cox, 21, and Kesaun Sykes, 22, are each charged with two counts of murder. John is charged as the shooter. All four defendants have pleaded not guilty.
The prosecutor is seeking the death penalty.
During the fifth and final day of the preliminary hearing, Investigator Gary LeClair of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department testified Wednesday that Sykes told investigators Pietrzak answered the door that night holding a knife.
Cox told investigators that when Pietrzak saw the men armed with guns, he said, “What the (expletive)? What the (expletive)? Are you guys serious?”
The four men then forced their way inside and ransacked the home but were unable to find anything of great value, LeClair said.
While the husband was being held in another room, Sykes told investigators, the men cut off the wife’s nightgown with a knife and commented on her body, LeClair said.
Sykes said it was Miller’s idea to “dance her around” in front of “Sgt. P,” hoping it would be his “breaking point” and that he would tell them where money and valuables were hidden, LeClair testified.
Sykes said they took Jenkins-Pietrzak to the living room and raped her with an object while her husband–who had been beaten, bound and gagged–watched, LeClair testified.
Finally, they forced the couple to their knees in the living room and shot them both multiple times in the head, investigators said.
Sykes told investigators that they were in the house about 30 minutes.
On the ride home afterward, the men discussed whether the two were dead and joked and laughed, LeClair said.
Ultimately, just a few pieces of jewelry, including the couple’s wedding rings, were stolen, along with some other items of little value and an ATM card that was used to withdraw a few hundred dollars. Investigators recovered many of the stolen items from the defendants’ homes.
Sykes described the haul to investigators as “petty,” LeClair said.
Pietrzak was a helicopter airframe mechanic based at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Miller and John were assigned to his unit.
A trial date has not been scheduled.
[Editors Note: An earlier account that appeared when this story first broke can be read here.]
Clockwise from top left: Kesuan Sykes, Tyrone Miller, Kevin Cox. and Emrys John.