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Defense next up in Marine slaying trial

May. 13, 2013 - 07:56AM   |  
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RIVERSIDE, CALIF. — The scene inside the French Valley home was horrific.

Marine Sgt. Jan Pietrzak and his wife were found gagged, tied and shot in the head. She was naked and sexually assaulted, he had been beaten. Racial slurs were spray-painted in the house, and fires had been set in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence.

Prosecutors have spent the last several weeks presenting their case against three of the four Marines charged in the double murder who face the death penalty if convicted. A fourth suspect, also a former Marine, had his case severed and is awaiting trial.

On Monday, defense attorneys will get to present their side of the story to jurors.

Emrys John, 23, and Tyrone Miller and Kevin Cox, both 25, have pleaded not guilty to murder and allegations of burglary, robbery and sexual assault. All three men worked with Pietrzak at one time while stationed at Camp Pendleton.

The Pietrzaks were newlyweds and had been living in the home for only a few months when the incident occurred in October 2008. Prosecutors said robbery was the motive for the crime.

Pietrzak’s wife, Quiana, had her wrists bound with red duct tape and was laying against a living room couch. Pietrzak was bloodied and found in his underwear.

During opening statements, prosecutor Daniel DeLimon said the ordeal may have lasted more than an hour.

“It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t fast,” he said.

Prosecutors said John shot the couple through couch cushions to muffle the noise. The racial slurs were used to throw investigators off, according to court records.

Authorities were led to the four men after receiving tips from fellow Marines. DeLimon said Miller told another Marine after the shooting that he handed the gun to John the night of the murders and said, “Do them.”

Marine Justin Weissinger testified at a preliminary hearing that Miller and John had boasted about the killings.

Jewelry, including the couple’s wedding rings, and Pietrzak’s dress uniform were found at the suspects’ homes, authorities said.

Pietrzak, 24, who was born in Poland and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., joined the Marines in 2003 and served in Iraq from July 2005 to February 2006.

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