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Crime

Former Marine Found Guilty in Slaying of His Lover Erin Corwin

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Richard Lui/The Desert Sun via AP

A former U.S. Marine accused of killing the wife of a fellow Twentynine Palms Marine was found guilty of first-degree murder on Thursday, a spokesman from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office tells PEOPLE.

Christopher Lee, who murdered his allegedly pregnant lover Erin Corwin, was charged with one felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement of having intentionally killed the victim by means of lying in wait.

Lee, 27, shocked the court when he took back his not guilty plea and testified to killing his 19-year-old lover earlier this week by strangling her and then throwing her body down a 140-foot mine shaft.

During his surprising confession, Lee also revealed a previously unknown accusation: That he was motivated in part by an angry suspicion Corwin had molested his daughter.

Corwin disappeared in June 2014. Her body was found hidden in an abandoned mine shaft in a remote area in the desert near Joshua Tree National Park after a nearly two month search.

When Lee was asked by the Deputy District Attorney Sean Daugherty if he was the one who’d killed Corwin, Lee responded with “Yes, I am.” He responded similarly when Daugherty asked if he’d been the one who strangled her.

He was arrested in August 2014 in Alaska, where he had moved with his wife and daughter after Corwin went missing. Officials said Corwin was pregnant with Lee’s baby.

According to Lee’s testimony, the pair met for what Corwin believed would be a romantic evening with a marriage proposal. Instead, they ended up outside the mine and argued because Lee wanted to attempt suicide outside the mine.

He testified that he was angry, a feeling fueled by recently being denied deployment. And he believed Corwin had allegedly molested his daughter.

“I made the decision to kill her,” Lee testified. “I was controlled by the anger. The hate I felt that day, it was something I never want to experience again.”

His sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 29.

— Reporting by Chris Harris