Jury selection is slated to get under way Monday for the mental competency trial of a U.S. Marine accused with three fellow servicemen of killing a sergeant and his wife at their French Valley home.
Kesaun Kedron Sykes is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and special circumstance allegations that the killings occurred during a rape and robbery. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Charged along with the 24-year-old are Kevin Darnell Cox, Emrys John and Tyrone Miller, all of whom are being held without bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta.
Sykes’ attorney, Peter Morreale, is arguing that his client is mentally deficient.
Morreale and Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Daniel Delimon will present evidence to a jury next week, after which the panel will make a recommendation on competence to Judge Paul Dickerson, who can choose to accept or reject the findings.
Sykes and the other defendants are accused of fatally shooting Marine Sgt. Janek Pietrzak, 24, and his 26-year-old wife, Quiana Faye Jenkins-Pietrzak, during an Oct. 15, 2008, robbery at the couple’s two-story house at 31319 Bermuda Ave. The woman was also sexually assaulted.
According to evidence presented during a 2009 preliminary hearing, the four defendants went to the victims’ house late at night, armed with handguns, and forced their way into the residence after Pietrzak answered the front door.
The sergeant served with the men in the same unit at Camp Pendleton. His wife was a nurse at the base. They had only been married three months.
Sheriff’s investigators allege the defendants beat, bound and gagged the couple while they ransacked the residence, stealing jewelry and other valuables and stuffing them into suitcases that were loaded into John’s Jeep Cherokee.
Cox and Sykes allegedly confessed their parts in the deadly attack, each pointing fingers at the other, according to investigators. The pair allegedly cut off Quiana’s nightgown and sexually assaulted her on a table with various objects while her husband was forced to watch, according to testimony.
A fellow Camp Pendleton Marine, Justin Weissinger, testified that Miller and John detailed their involvement in the slayings during a conversation with him on the base.
Weissinger alleged the men said they bent the victims over a sofa and shot both in the head twice, using cushions to suppress the sound of gunfire.
Why the newlyweds were targeted has not been confirmed, though there were racial overtones, with epithets scrawled on a wall in the residence.
Pietrzak was white, of Polish descent, and Quiana was black.
Some of the items taken during the home invasion were later recovered from the defendants’ living quarters, according to investigators.
Cox’s girlfriend testified that he brought two recently fired pistols into her Fallbrook apartment the morning after the slayings.