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Former Marine sentenced to death for Calif. murders

Jul. 19, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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RIVERSIDE, CALIF. — A former Marine was sentenced to death Friday for the murders of a fellow Marine and his wife in what a judge called an attack of “savage brutality” on their Southern California home.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Christian Thierbach ordered the sentence for 25-year-old Tyrone Miller, one of three former Marines convicted of killing Sgt. Jan Pietrzak and his wife, Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak in 2008. The couple was found gagged, tied and shot in the head in the living room of their Winchester home.

Miller lacks “even a semblance of morality or a conscience,” Thierbach said during sentencing.

Miller was convicted last month with two other former Marines of first-degree murder with special circumstances of murder during a robbery and burglary and multiple murders. He looked straight ahead as Thierbach spoke. He did not speak on his behalf during the hearing.

Jurors have recommended the death penalty for Emrys John, 23, and life without parole for Kevin Cox, 25. They are scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 16.

A fourth former Marine charged in the killings, Kesaun Sykes, 26, is being tried separately.

Prosecutors say the four men went to Pietrzak’s home in October 2008 to rob him and forced their way inside. Pietrzak, who was Miller’s supervisor at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, was assaulted and his wife was sexually assaulted before they were killed. Jewelry was missing and a fire was set in an apparent attempt to destroy the evidence.

Prosecutors have said Miller told another Marine after the shooting that he handed a gun to John that night and said, “Do them.” During trial, Miller testified that he did not order the killings or see who fired the fatal shots.

Pietrzak’s mother, Henryka, said she was pleased the judge handed down the toughest sentence possible, but not even that could satisfy her.

“No ruling and no money can bring them back,” she said after the ruling. “Their presence is what we crave.”

Defense attorney John Dolan declined to comment immediately after the sentencing. He said the case would automatically be appealed.

Miller, who grew up in North Carolina, testified in May that he was upset when he went to Pietrzak’s home because the sergeant had told him he would not get a promotion. Miller said he was drunk on brandy and tequila and fought with the helicopter airframe mechanic and wrote racial slurs on the walls in an attempt to hurt Pietrzak’s feelings. Pietrzak’s wife was black.

During the hearing on Friday, Jenkins’ mother, Faye, told the court that losing her only daughter and son-in-law had turned the world she knew into a cold, lonely place.

Even now, she prays the devastating news won’t be true and somehow the couple will be returned to her, according to her impact statement.

“I keep my front porch light on in hope she’ll find her way home to me,” Jenkins wrote in remarks that were read aloud to the court by a victim’s advocate after she broke down sobbing.

Prosecutor Daniel DeLimon said Miller deserved the death sentence but it doesn’t make victims’ relatives feel any better.

“This isn’t a happy or joyous moment,” he said. “It’s just the only option.”

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