Pregnant Marine wife missing for one month; horse ranch owner sp - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Pregnant Marine wife missing for one month; horse ranch owner speaks out

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Jonathan & Erin Corwin Jonathan & Erin Corwin
Nichole & Christopher Lee Nichole & Christopher Lee
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- (CBS 8) It has been one month to the day since a pregnant Marine wife disappeared in Twentynine Palms.

Now, we are hearing form a horse ranch owner who is a key witness in the ongoing search for Erin Corwin.

“She (Erin) was very calm, a very calm person on a horse especially,” said Isabelle Megli, owner of White Rock Horse Rescue in Yucca Valley.

In a telephone interview with CBS News 8 on Monday, Megli said Corwin, 20, started volunteering at the horse rescue ranch in October 2013.

Isabelle Megli, Horse Ranch Owner - Extended Interview Clips:
(Interview ends with telephone disconnect)

Corwin has been missing since June 28 when her husband, Corporal Jonathan Corwin, 21, told deputies his wife never returned from a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park.

Erin Corwin cared for a rescue horse she had adopted at the ranch; and for the first time, Megli revealed that Corwin had been working as a nanny on base, the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command Twentynine Palms.

“She was a nanny for a family that she knew,” said Megli. “It was a lady that worked with a baby and she was a nanny for the baby.”

According to search warrant records filed in the Joshua Tree courthouse, Corwin also was having an affair with a married Marine on base named Christopher Lee.

Lee, 24, also volunteered at the horse ranch with his wife Nichole Lee, 23. The couple has a 6-year-old daughter, said Megli.

“We were not aware of anything that might have been going on personally,” she said. “She (Erin) would ride her horse on the weekends and they (the Lees) rode their horses during the week.”

“We weren't aware of it (the alleged affair) at all. It was not part of the ranch,” Megli said.

Corwin’s job as a nanny on base did not involve the Lee family, Megli said.

According to Megli, the last time she saw Christopher Lee and his wife Nichole was two weeks ago, days after police served a search warrant on her White Rock Horse Rescue ranch.

The Lees planned on returning to Alaska, she said, because Corporal Lee had been honorably discharged from the Marines following his six-year contract.

“When they left here they were in a U-Haul. I'm not sure what they did after they left here. I just know that their ultimate goal was to go home,” she said.

“I’m not sure who they’re living with because they’re not talking, I mean, they’re not communicating because they’re getting their life back together, hopefully,” said Megli.

Detectives investigating Corwin's disappearance also served search warrants on the Lee’s apartment on base, on his 1997 Jeep Cherokee, and on the U-Haul truck they were using to move belongings, records show.

In a sworn, probable cause statement released by the court to CBS News 8, detectives claimed Megli had made statements that implicated both Christopher and Nichole Lee in the possible murder of Erin Corwin.

Megli said her statements to detectives were taken out of context to support a search of her ranch and vehicles on the property.

“I can see how they could pick pieces of what I said but I am totally amazed at how they twisted it,” she said.

The court records claimed Megli overheard Nichole Lee saying "detectives would never find the body,” that her husband "did not have an alibi,” and that he couldn't keep his lies straight "because he was dumb."

“Unfortunately, they twisted it a little much,” Megli said. “When you find out people are missing, it brings up conversation and it was just conversation (about) no body, no case.”

“Nicole did not refer to her husband or to this case,” Megli explained.

“It was a generalization of a conversation of CSI, Law and Order, and (Scott) Peterson,” said Megli, referring to crime dramas on television and to the murder trial of Scott Peterson, who was convicted in 2004 of murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn son.

Megli said she was aware that various search warrants had been served but she does not believe the Lees were involved in Corwin’s disappearance.

“They knew that they were trying to find Erin and that was all they knew,” Megli said.

When detectives searched her ranch, they found a destructive device known as a potato launcher. Christopher Lee was charged with illegal possession of the device and posted $25,000 bail. He is set to appear in court on September 9, 2014.

“On that potato (launcher), yeah, it was in the back of my car, disassembled,” said Megli. She said Lee told her he would travel back to California to keep is court appointment.

Following the release on July 21 of the probable cause affidavit in search warrant #2014-119, detectives returned to the Joshua Tree courthouse and asked a judge to seal the entire search warrant from public view.

The judge agreed but the order does not prevent dissemination of exiting copies of the warrant already released to two news organizations, including CBS News 8.

San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department homicide Sgt. Trevis Newport told CBS News 8 that all warrants in the case were supposed to be sealed from the beginning.

A detective had made a mistake on July 4 in not asking the judge to seal warrant #2014-119, Newport said.

The list of search warrants that are now sealed or partially sealed at the Joshua Tree courthouse include recent 2014 warrants numbered 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 122, 123 and 124.

Because the records are sealed, it is possible that some of them are unrelated to Corwin’s disappearance.

It would take a motion and court order to unseal the records.

Meanwhile, search teams have been unable to locate Erin Corwin, despite extensive efforts over the past four weeks. San Bernardino investigators still say they cannot rule out the possibility that Corwin may have voluntarily gone missing.

Corwin’s 2013 Toyota Corolla was found abandoned in the desert on June 30 two miles from the Marine base.

“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,” according to the search warrant affidavit.

The tire tracks next to Erin Corwin’s vehicle were “found to have similar tire width, tread pattern, and wheelbase” to the tires on Lee’s Jeep Cherokee, the court records revealed.

Megli said both Christopher and Nichole Lee drove dark-colored Jeeps.

The Lees have not been named as suspects and no charges have been filed. They did not respond to numerous messages left with family members in Anchorage, Alaska.

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