After killing the wife of a fellow Marine with whom he was having an affair, Christopher Lee will spend the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole, according to multiple reports.
Lee, 27, a former Marine who confessed to the murder of his allegedly pregnant lover Erin Corwin, 19, by strangling her and then throwing her body down a 140-foot desert mine shaft, was sentenced Tuesday in San Bernardino County, California, Superior Court, reports The Desert Sun.
Lee was convicted Nov. 3 after abruptly recanting his not-guilty plea and making the surprise announcement that he acted on impulse, motivated in part by suspicion that Corwin, his married neighbor in Twentynine Palms, California, had molested his 6-year-old daughter.
Authorities searched for nearly two months before finding Corwin’s remains after she was reported missing in June 2014.
In a statement at his sentencing, Lee repeated that he killed Corwin in a rage and confessed to “save his humanity,” according to The Press Enterprise.
“I will accept punishment for the crime I committed, but I cannot, and will not, admit to crimes I did not commit,” he said in court. “I did not want to kill Erin, and I did not plan to kill Erin.”
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Corwin vanished on June 28, 2014 — a day that she and Lee had planned to spend together in the desert about two hours from their neighboring apartments, according to court documents.
Investigators allege the pair planned to celebrate Erin’s pregnancy that day. Corwin had texted a friend that she suspected their rendezvous in the desert would be accompanied by a marriage proposal from Lee, who was also married.
“The location is only half the surprise,” she wrote. “He says he’s honestly not sure how I’m going to react. Seriously, I don’t know why he would drag me to a very special place for a big dumb surprise.”
Her body was discovered Aug. 16 in the mineshaft near Joshua Tree National Park, strangled by a garrote that was still wrapped around her neck when she was found, The Press-Enterprise reported. A similar garrote turned up under the front passenger seat of Lee’s mother’s car, which Lee was driving when he was arrested in his native Alaska following his discharge from the Marines, according to trial testimony.
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Although Corwin had told friends and loved ones that she was pregnant, medical examiners could not confirm it due to decomposition of her remains.
According to multiple reports, Superior Court Judge J. David Mazurek addressed Corwin’s family, saying, “I’m very sorry I can’t give you true justice in this case, which is returning Erin to you.”