Warrant: Evidence of murder in disappearance of Marine wife - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Warrant: Evidence of murder in disappearance of Marine wife

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TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (CBS 8) – Homicide investigators believe a pregnant, missing Marine wife may have been shot while on a hunting trip in the desert, according to a search warrant affidavit obtained from the Joshua Tree court on Monday by CBS News 8.

The records lay out a criminal investigation in the case of Erin Corwin, 20, who disappeared June 28 after telling her husband she was going to Joshua Tree National Park.

Investigators believe Corwin was having an affair with her married neighbor, an ex-Marine named Christopher Brandon Lee, age 24.

A friend of Erin's in Tennessee, “confirmed Erin and Lee were romantically involved and Erin may be pregnant with Lee’s child,” wrote Detective Cory Emon in a probable-cause affidavit filed July 4 at the Joshua Tree courthouse.

The friend “knew Erin and Lee were going on a day trip together on 06-28-14, for a celebration of Erin’s pregnancy,” Emon wrote.  The friend "forwarded text messages from Erin to support these claims," he wrote.

“It is highly likely Erin could have been harmed by an unknown firearm. Sometime after Erin left with Lee, her phone was de-activated (turned off),” the detective continued.

Corwin’s 2013 Toyota Corolla was found two days after she vanished, abandoned in the desert about two miles from her home on the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms.

“A single set of shoe tracks were found to lead from the driver door of Erin’s vehicle and then disappear next to a set of vehicle tracks,” the warrant said.

Detectives had served an earlier search warrant on the apartment Erin shared with her husband, Corporal Jon Corwin; and another warrant on the nearby apartment of Corporal Christopher Lee, which he shared with his wife Nicole and their daughter.

“In the carport by Lee’s residence was a Jeep Cherokee found to belong to Lee,” the affidavit said. “The tires on this vehicle were consistent with the tire tracks located by Erin’s vehicle. They were found to have similar tire width, tread pattern, and wheelbase. Lee’s cell phone was recovered but Erin’s cellular phone was not located.”

Inside Lee’s Jeep, crime scene investigators found “ten .40 caliber fired cartridge casings” but no .40 caliber firearm was recovered.

The search warrant released Monday gave probable cause to search a Yucca Valley horse rescue ranch where both Erin and Lee volunteered, according to the affidavit.

Lee and his family were in the process of moving into a residence on the ranch, called White Rock Horse Rescue, following Corporal Lee’s honorable discharge from the Marines.

The Yucca Valley ranch is owned by Isabella Megli, who told detectives the Lee’s were preparing on moving back to Alaska.

According to the search warrant, “Nicole (Lee) told Isabella that without a body the detectives did not have a case against them and the detectives would never find the body.”

“Nicole had also berated Lee in Front of Isabella about not being able to keep his lies straight when he was interviewed by detectives because he was dumb,” the search warrant said.

“Nicole stated she was able to keep her story straight and the detectives did not get any information from her,” according to the records.

In their search of the ranch and two vehicles on the premises, detectives seized .223 caliber ammunition, a .45 caliber magazine with rounds, a Canon digital camera, a utility knife, a Samsung cell phone, a blue latex glove, tan boots, "camo" pants, a U-haul truck with contents, an IPod touch, and a homemade destructive device known as a potato launcher.

Christopher Lee was arrested following the search on a single, felony charge of possession of a destructive device. He posted $25,000 bail on July 6 and was released from custody.

The San Bernardino County District Attorney has not yet filed a complaint in the case involving the destructive devise. Lee has a preliminary court date of September 9 in Joshua Tree court.

Detective Emon wrote in the affidavit that he was seeking the search warrant because there was evidence that a felony had been committed, “to wit: PC 187-Murder and PC 18710-Possession of a Destructive Device.”

Throughout the three-week investigation, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department public information officers have declined to confirm a criminal investigation in Erin Corwin’s disappearance.

On Friday of last week, in fact, the department put out a news release stating, “there are no suspects or ‘persons of interest’ identified” in the case.

In an interview Monday night, Sgt. Trevis Newport of the Sheriff’s Specialized Investigations Division-Homicide Detail responded to the release of the search warrant affidavit and investigation details.

Sgt. Trevis Newport, SB Sheriff’s Specialized Investigations - Extended interview clips:
ftpcontent.worldnow.com/kfmb/misc/newport.mp3

“We cannot rule out that foul play is involved. We cannot rule out that Erin may have taken off on her own accord and just doesn't want to be located,” Sgt. Newport said.

“We have to look at potential people who may have had recent contact with the missing person. We have to look at potential relationships that others may have had with this missing person. So, it’s not uncommon for investigators to have many different aspects of an investigation going on at once,” said Newport.

“Investigators have to determine, if there was foul play, whether or not there are people who should be the scope of the investigation," he continued.

"Obviously, detectives decided that there are several people -- not just a few in particular -- who have been looked at and are being looked at in this case,” Newport said. “They’re not going to miss any potential evidence or leads involving some of these people.”

Investigators have not publicly named Christopher Lee or his wife Nicole as suspects or persons of interest in the disappearance of Erin Corwin.

No one has been charged or arrested in connection to Corwin's disappearance.

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