Opening statements Monday in trial of man accused of killing newlyweds

RIVERSIDE – Opening statements are scheduled Monday in the trial of an ex-Marine accused of joining three comrades in killing a young sergeant and his wife during a home invasion robbery in French Valley.

Kesaun Kedron Sykes, 27, could face the death penalty if convicted in the October 2008 slayings of 24-year-old Janek Pietrzak and his 26-year-old wife, Quiana Faye Jenkins-Pietrzak.

Sykes is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, along with special circumstance allegations of killing during the course of a robbery, killing during a burglary and taking multiple lives in the same crime, as well as a sentence-enhancing allegation of committing a sexual assault with a foreign instrument.

Testimony is expected to last several weeks, and if Sykes is convicted, a penalty trial will follow.

His three co-defendants were convicted of the murders in June 2013. Kevin Darnell Cox and Tyrone Lloyd Miller, both 27, were sentenced to death, while 25-year-old Emrys Justin John was sentenced to two consecutive life prison terms.

The men, along with Sykes, were assigned to the same helicopter maintenance squadron at Camp Pendleton. Miller was under the direct supervision of Janek Pietrzak.

According to Deputy District Attorney Dan DeLimon, the four Marines wanted to get inside the Pietrzaks’ two-story house at 31319 Bermuda Ave. to steal their belongings — but also to engage ”in the sexual humiliation” of the victims.

Miller testified that he was displeased with Pietrzak because the young sergeant had told him only a day or two earlier that there was no way he would be promoted to corporal.

The defendants confessed to sheriff’s investigators that they were mainly interested in the ”stuff” they might be able steal from the victims, who had received numerous gifts at their wedding that summer, according to trial testimony.

Cox, John and Miller, armed with shotguns, forced their way into the newlyweds’ home in the predawn hours of Oct. 15, 2008, after Cox convinced Pietrzak to unlock the door so the two could speak. The men rushed Pietrzak, beating him into submission, according to testimony.

The couple were bound and gagged and thrown face-down on a sofa. After spending 90 minutes ransacking the house and hauling stolen goods to a vehicle parked outside, Miller and Sykes stripped Quiana and sexually assaulted her, according to the prosecution.

John shot the couple execution-style with a 9mm handgun.


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