VISTA (CNS) - A Camp Pendleton Marine and two women accused in the death of a military wife from Fallbrook pleaded not guilty Friday to special circumstance allegations of murder during a kidnapping that could lead to the death penalty.
Louis Ray Perez, 46, Dorothy Maraglino, 37, and 26-year-old Jessica Lynn Lopez are charged in connection with the death of 22-year-old Brittany Killgore, who authorities say was killed after being abducted and forced to participate in a bondage and sadomasochistic sex ring,.
The defendants also face charges of torture, conspiracy, attempted sexual battery and kidnapping. They were ordered to stand trial after a six-day preliminary hearing in March.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis will decide later if the defendants will face the death penalty or life in prison without parole if they are convicted. A status conference is scheduled for July 10.
Killgore's body was found near Lake Skinner on April 17, 2012, four days after she agreed to go on a dinner cruise with Perez.
A deputy medical examiner testified that Killgore was strangled with some sort of ligature before being dumped near the Riverside County lake. The victim also had a deep cut from a saw below her left knee, suggesting attempted dismemberment after she died, Dr. Craig Nelson testified.
Killgore had just filed for divorce from her Marine husband -- who was deployed to Afghanistan at the time -- and was preparing to move back to Pennsylvania. Lance Cpl. Cory Killgore was cleared of any wrongdoing in his wife's death.
The victim's best friend said she and Killgore became acquainted with the defendants in 2011 but never participated in their alternative lifestyle.
Another friend testified that Killgore texted the word "help" shortly after leaving with Perez, who told the friend in a subsequent phone call that he dropped Killgore at a bar and saw her go off with "two guys."
Perez allegedly took Killgore to Maraglino's home in Fallbrook, where authorities said they found ropes, whips, a Taser, a nightstick, spiked gloves and a "sex dungeon."
All three defendants were involved in sexual behavior that included bondage, torture and master, servant and slave role-playing, and Killgore was an "unwilling participant" in those activities, sheriff's detective Susan Fiske alleged in search warrant affidavits.
A document written by Maraglino and found during a search of her Fallbrook home indicated she was a "willing participant" in whipping, beating and asphyxiation and any "loss of life should be considered an accident," sheriff's Detective Brian Patterson said.
In another letter, Maraglino wrote of a fantasy in which a person's throat is slit from behind, Patterson testified.