RIVERSIDE – A death sentence was recommended today for a man who joined three accomplices in killing a Marine sergeant and his wife during a home invasion robbery near Murrieta.
A six-man, six-woman jury in Riverside reached a unanimous decision after weighing the fate of 27-year-old Kesaun Kedron Sykes for less than a day. The same panel earlier this month convicted Sykes of the murders of 26-year-old Quiana Faye Jenkins-Pietrzak and her husband, 24-year-old Janek Pietrzak.
”I’m so glad it’s over. It’s been six years of agony,” Pietrzak’s mother, Henryka Varga, told City News Service outside the courtroom.
Varga and Glenda Faye Jenkins, Quiana’s mother, agreed that their mutual ”nightmare” will never end because of what Sykes and his cohorts did.
”But at least he’s off the street and can’t hurt anybody else,” Jenkins said.
Varga described the defendant as the ”worst of the worst” and felt he shouldn’t be afforded the ”respect and dignity” that the judicial process guarantees convicts.
”He still has rights. This waste of humanity can sit in a prison cell. But our children are in the grave. They were tortured and died in such a cruel way — for no reason,” she said.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Christian Thierbach scheduled Sykes’ sentencing for Nov. 7.
The defendant was the last of four ex-Marines to be tried and convicted for the Oct. 15, 2008, slayings. Last year, three members of Janek Pietrzak’s helicopter maintenance squadron at Camp Pendleton — Kevin Darnell Cox and Tyrone Lloyd Miller, both 27, along with 25-year-old Emrys Justin John — were convicted of the killings. Cox and Miller were sentenced to death, while John received two consecutive life prison terms.
”Mr. Sykes and the other defendants crossed every line of human decency when they committed these murders,” Deputy District Attorney Dan DeLimon told jurors during his closing argument Wednesday. ”And they just walked away as if nothing happened. But what happened in that house went beyond all tolerable and acceptable limits in society.”
DeLimon asked jurors several times to imagine how the victims felt in their final hour, bound and blindfolded, wondering whether cooperating with the defendants would prevent their being killed.
”If Sykes and the others had just left, we wouldn’t be here today,” the prosecutor said. ”But we’re talking about a pack of predators who actually took pleasure in inflicting pain and suffering. They’re more monster than human.”
Defense attorney Doug Myers argued that his client, though 21 at the time, had the maturity of someone still in his teens.
”Yes, he’s had life experience. But his brain hasn’t fully developed,” Myers said. ”His relative youthfulness is a factor in mitigation.”
Myers stressed that Sykes was not the one who fired the four fatal shots into the victims, but instead had stepped outside to start the SUV into which the defendants had loaded stolen goods.
”Mr. Sykes did not play a direct role in carrying out these murders,” the attorney said. ”He wasn’t the leader. He wasn’t the planner. His level of involvement was less than the others.”
Sykes, Miller, Cox and John forced their way into the Pietrzaks’ French Valley home at 3139 Bermuda Ave. after Cox knocked on the door around 1 a.m. asking if he could speak to the sergeant.
After tying up and gagging the victims, the defendants ransacked the residence for 90 minutes.
Quiana Pietrzak was separated from her husband and placed on a table by Sykes, who stripped her and joined Miller and Cox in sexually violating her.
The defendants had carried out a similar home-invasion in Oceanside less than a month earlier, though no one was killed.
They confessed that they were mainly interested in the ”stuff” they might be able steal from the Pietrzaks, who had received numerous gifts at their Aug. 8 wedding.
John shot the couple with a 9mm handgun.
Varga and Jenkins waged a campaign in 2009 seeking legislation to require the Marine Corps to raise its recruiting standards and strengthen vetting procedures to prevent men such as the defendants from joining. The effort did not bear fruit, and both women said they still believe some of the blame for their children’s deaths rests with the Marine Corps.
”The Marines failed them,” Varga said. ”They’re supposed to know what’s going on under their own roof.”
”They did nothing for us. Nothing,” Jenkins added.