RIVERSIDE – Jurors recommended the death penalty today for two Marines — and life in prison for a third — for the murders of a sergeant and his wife during a home-invasion robbery in French Valley.
On their second day of deliberations in the penalty trial of Emrys Justin John, 23, and Tyrone Lloyd Miller, 25, an eight-man, four-woman jury decided both should receive capital punishment for the Oct. 15, 2008, slayings of 24-year-old Janek Pietrzak and his 26-year-old wife, Quiana Faye Jenkins- Pietrzak.
A separate eight-woman, four-man jury recommended a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for Kevin Darnell Cox, 25.
Miller is slated to be sentenced first, on July 19, while Cox and John are expected to be sentenced on Aug. 16.
”We were hoping and praying to see something in their faces, some sign of remorse, but there’s nothing,” Henryka Varga, Janek’s mother, told City News Service outside the courtroom. ”They’re still laughing and telling jokes.”
Varga and Quiana’s mother, Glenda Faye Jenkins, along with Jenkins’ three brothers, waited to thank members of John’s and Miller’s jury, several of whom broke down in tears as they embraced the victims’ family members.
”I don’t celebrate holidays anymore because of this. What’s happy about holidays?” Glenda Jenkins told CNS.
Her youngest brother, Kevin Williams, said the loss of his niece haunts him every day.
”Why her? What did she do to deserve this? She was a role model,” Williams said. ”I could deal with the fact that she got shot. But what these individuals did inside that home — it was barbaric. Not just criminal — barbaric.”
Varga said what happened to her son and Quiana ”was the worst thing imaginable.”
”You feel guilty when you laugh about anything after this,” she told CNS tearfully. ”It’s real. It’s not a terrible dream. I’ll never hear my son’s voice again.”
”They not only took our children’s lives; they took their dignity,” Jenkins said. ”My daughter was lying there, tied up, crying and crying. She had to know what was coming. But it was all a game to these killers.”
Both women criticized the Marine Corps for recruiting the defendants, whom Varga referred to as ”gang members.”
”Shame on the military,” she said.
Both she and Jenkins sought help from their congressional representatives to force the Marine Corps and other branches to make background screenings and entry standards tougher in the wake of the slayings. But the effort ran into a dead end.
”We got no help from the Marines,” Jenkins said. ”They treated us like dirt.”
The defendants were convicted June 5 of first-degree murder and special circumstance allegations that multiple lives were taken in the same crime and that the killings occurred in the course of a robbery and a burglary. Jurors also convicted Miller of sexual assault.
The men’s penalty trials got underway last week, with Cox’s finishing first. Jurors returned with a verdict in less than two days. But Riverside County Superior Court Judge Christian Thierbach ordered the finding sealed until jurors in John’s and Miller’s penalty trial returned with verdicts. It took that jury one day to reach a decision on punishment.
Another Camp Pendleton-based Marine, 25-year-old Kesaun Kedron Sykes, is slated to be tried in August.
According to Deputy District Attorney Dan DeLimon, the four Marines wanted to get inside the Pietrzaks’ two-story French Valley house at 31319 Bermuda Ave. to steal their belongings — but also to indulge in a power trip.
”This was about … taking pleasure in the sexual humiliation of a woman and tormenting her husband by making him watch,” DeLimon said.
Miller testified that he was displeased with Pietrzak because he had told him only a day or two earlier that his chances of being promoted to corporal were nil.
Cox rang the doorbell twice shortly after 1 a.m., and Pietrzak came downstairs, deactivated his house alarm and opened the front door. The defendants, armed with shotguns, beat the young sergeant into submission, DeLimon alleged.
The victims 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 used a vibrator they found in the couple’s bathroom to violate her sexually. John shot the couple execution-style with a 9mm handgun.
”Why couldn’t they have waited one day to break in?” Jenkins asked. ”Quiana and Janek were both going be out of town the next day.”
She said her daughter was completing a master’s degree in public health administration.
The couple had been married 68 days.
The defendants and Pietrzak served in a helicopter maintenance squadron at Camp Pendleton.