The fourth and final suspect in the grisly 2008 murders of an Iraq War veteran and his newlywed wife was sentenced to death Friday, ending five years of painful court hearings for the couple’s families.
Ex-Marine Kesaun Sykes, 27, was sentenced on two counts of first degree murder in the brutal deaths of U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jan Pietrzak, 24, and his wife, Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak, according to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
The couple was shot execution style after four men stormed in at about 1 a.m. Oct. 15, 2008, with the intent to rob, prosecutors said. They sexually assaulted Jenkins-Pietrzak, an infant care counselor, and beat Pietrzak while they were bound and gagged.
The intruders also painted the walls of the interracial couple’s Winchester/French Valley home with racial epithets, and lit a small fire to try and destroy evidence, according to prosecutors.
Pietrzak, of Brooklyn, had married his wife 68 days earlier.
“I went through hell all those years,” Pietrzak’s mother, Henryka Pietrzak-Vargaand, told the Daily News Sunday of life during the trial. “I’m pleased they are never going to get out.”
Sykes was tried separately from his three accomplices, who were convicted in 2013: Kevin Cox, Emrys John and Tyrone Miller. The three had worked with Pietrzak at Camp Pendleton as Marines, prosecutors said.
Sykes, who was convicted Aug. 5, will join John and Miller on death row. Cox was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The case gained notoriety for its savagery, which was depicted in graphic details and photographs at trial. Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Daniel DeLimon apologized to jurors for showing them the disturbing crime scene images of Jenkin-Pietrzak’s naked body lying face down on a couch with her arms bound behind her back in red duct tape. Her badly bruised husband was next to her, his white T-shirt soaked in blood.
Photographs showed a vibrator was left next to the couple, which was what the intruders used to violate Jenkins-Pietrzak as her husband was forced to watch, prosecutors said.
Police found the couple’s wedding rings, valuables and Pietrzak’s uniform in the convicted men’s possession.
For Pietrzak-Vargaand, the prison sentences are not harsh enough for the “unrecyclable wastes of humanity” who stole the lives of her children. She hopes to move forward now that the trial has ended.
“It’s an empty victory because nothing’s changed,” Pietrzak-Vargaand. “It’s not closure. The only thing we closed is a casket.”