5 Things to Know About the Murder of Marine Wife Erin Corwin, Allegedly Killed by Lover
Earlier this week, a former marine on trial for the 2014 murder of his alleged lover shocked the courtroom by admitting he killed the allegedly pregnant woman — despite years of denials and a not-guilty plea. In his confession, he also revealed a new accusation: That the victim had allegedly been molesting his daughter.
Oral arguments in the trial of Christopher Lee, 27, accused of murdering Erin Corwin, the 19-year-old wife of a fellow marine, concluded Wednesday inside the San Bernardino County Superior Court in California.
If convicted, Lee could face the death penalty. As jurors deliberate Lee’s fate, here are five things to know about the case.
1. Corwin and Lee Were Allegedly Having an Affair at the Time of Her Murder.
Authorities allege Corwin, who was reported missing in June 2014, and Lee, her neighbor, were having an extramarital affair. Police believe Lee killed his lover out of fear his wife would learn of the relationship.
Lee denied the affair to authorities. While admitting he and Corwin had kissed once, he allegedly told authorities they never had sex. Soon after Corwin vanished, Lee moved with his wife and daughter to Alaska, according to court documents.
2. Lee Said He Killed Corwin Because She Allegedly Molested His Daughter.
During his surprising confession on Tuesday, Lee claimed he was motivated to kill Corwin because he suspected his lover was molesting his daughter — a claim prosecutors described as a “ruse,” according to KESQ.
“I made the decision to kill her,” Lee testified in court. “I was controlled by the anger. The hate I felt that day, it was something I never want to experience again.”
Lee said he strangled Corwin for at least five minutes with a garrote created from two pieces of rebar and cord, and spent 30 seconds making sure she was dead, according to multiple reports.
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3. Corwin Was Allegedly Expecting a Marriage Proposal from Lee.
According to court documents, Corwin and Lee had planned to go hunting about two hours from their homes on June 28, 2014 — the day she was murdered. The trip, investigators allege, was a way for the couple to celebrate Erin’s pregnancy.
But Lee allegedly told police he had gone hunting in Joshua Tree National Park that day by himself, and had no information on Corwin’s whereabouts.
Text messages recovered from Corwin’s phone reveal the mother-to-be was excited about the couple’s outing, and disclosed to a friend she thought Lee was going to propose. Instead, prosecutors allege, Lee killed her.
4. Lee Allegedly Searched Online for Ways to Get Rid of a Corpse.
Under questioning, Lee allegedly admitted to investigators he had searched online for “how to dispose of a human body,” according to arrest records.
Corwin’s body was found seven weeks after she vanished, at the bottom of a 125-foot gold-mine shaft. Authorities discovered gun casings and pieces of rebar inside the mine shaft, and later found those same items in the back of his truck.
According to investigators’ documents, a witness alleged Lee asked him “the best way to dispose of a human body.”
5. Investigators Cannot Confirm or Deny That Corwin Was Pregnant at the Time of Her Death.
While Corwin told friends and loved ones she was expecting a child, her remains had decomposed to such an extent that medical examiners couldn’t be certain she was pregnant when she died.
A spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Prosecutor’s office tells PEOPLE the office could not confirm or deny if Corwin was pregnant.
Her body was found on Aug. 16, 2014, and authorities believe Corwin was strangled with a garrote, which was found near her body.
Had officials been able to confirm her pregnancy, Lee would have faced a second murder charge, according to prosecutors.