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Ex-Marine sentenced to death for murders of sergeant, wife in Southern California

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RIVERSIDE, California — A 27-year-old former Marine was sentenced to death Friday for the 2008 murders of a Marine sergeant and his wife in their Southern California home.

Superior Court Judge Christian Thierbach sentenced Kesaun Sykes after jurors recommended earlier this year that he receive the death penalty, the Riverside County district attorney's office said in a statement.

Sykes is one of three former Marines sentenced to death for the murders of Marine Corps Sgt. Jan Pietrzak and Quiana Jenkins-Pietrzak. A fourth was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Authorities say Sykes, Kevin Cox, Emrys John and Tyrone Miller went to the couple's home near Murrieta in October 2008 to rob them and forced their way inside. Pietrzak was assaulted and his wife sexually assaulted before they were killed. The pair were found bound and shot in the head.

Deputy District Attorney Daniel DeLimon said Sykes participated in the sexual assault and began trying to set fire to the home before the couple were killed.

"He earned his place on death row," DeLimon said. "If people are still alive, and you're trying to burn the house down on top of them, obviously, you are in, you are in all the way."

Sykes' lawyer, Doug Myers, said he recognizes the loss and pain suffered by the victims' loved ones, but Sykes did not deserve the death sentence, adding that his client was outside the home when the killings occurred.

"A death sentence for Kesaun, who was not the actual killer, who did not direct the killings, and who was exposed to such awful abuse and neglect throughout most of his life, was not warranted," Myers said.

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