August 27, 2014
Jake Edmiston
Posted with permission from National Post
Republish Reprint
Her husband reported her missing in June, sparking an extensive eight-week search that saw police scour more than 100 mine shafts in and around the…

After the pregnant wife of a U.S. marine was found dead at the bottom of a mine shaft, California police are accusing her lover of murder.

Christopher Brandon Lee, a former marine, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of 19-year-old Erin Corwin on Tuesday, the Marine Corps Times reported.

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department
In an arrest warrant, investigators alleged the pair were having an affair and had planned to go on a “special trip” around June 28 – the last day Ms. Corwin was seen alive.

Her husband reported her missing the following day, sparking an extensive eight-week search that saw police scour more than 100 mine shafts in and around the famous Joshua Tree National Park.

On Aug. 16, searchers found .22 caliber cartridge casings and a body at the bottom of 42-metre mine shaft. It was identified as Ms. Corwin through dental records.

“I had some hope, but overall, I expected the worst. It’s basically the only thing you can do after so much time,” her husband, Marine Corporal Jonathan Corwin told The Desert Sun on Monday. “I have closure now. I know she is in heaven, now. She is in a better place, in no more pain.”

Mr. Lee lived next to the Corwins on the Twentynine Palms Marine Corp base, near Joshua Tree where the woman’s body was found, The Desert Sun reported. In the arrest affidavit, police alleged that Mr. Lee had made internet searches on how to dispose of a human body.

AP Photo / San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department
Mr. Lee was arrested in Anchorage, Alaska and transferred back to California after waiving extradition. The district attorney has added the additional claim that Mr. Lee “intentionally killed the victim by means of lying in wait” – which increases the potential penalty to life in prison without parole, or execution.

“We need to see where (that allegation) comes from,” Mr. Lee’s lawyer David Kaloyanides told the Marine Corps Times. “I’m not really sure what evidence supports that. I’m not really sure what evidence supports the claim that Mr. Lee has done anything, other than him knowing the victim.”

Ms. Corwin’s husband was in the courtroom on Tuesday when Mr. Lee pleaded not guilty. Mr. Lee’s wife was reportedly absent.