Christopher Lee, a former Marine, continued to shock the San Bernardino County Superior Court in California on Tuesday when he took back his not guilty plea and testified to killing his 19-year-old lover, Erin Corwin, the wife of a fellow Marine.
Lee, 27, was accused of killing Corwin in 2014, then throwing her body down a 140-foot mine shaft. He denied the claim at the time, but now believes he must admit to the truth.
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.
“I’m no longer scared to tell the truth. People have to know what I did,” Lee said in court, according to The Desert Sun.
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.
Lee was arrested in August 2014 in Alaska, where he moved with his family 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.”
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Lee said he strangled Corwin for at least five minutes with a garrote created from two pieces of rebar and cord, according to The Desert Sun. He said he spent 30 seconds checking to see if she was alive, but found that she was dead.
He then testified to dragging her body to the mine shaft and pushing her in head first.
Daugherty scolded Lee for lying to investigators and not admitting his involvement until he was in court in front of an audience.
“You chose to do it in front of the jury,” Daugherty said. “It’s about you. You wanted attention.”
Lee is charged with first-degree murder with a sentencing enhancement for intentionally killing Corwin by means of lying in wait, according to The Desert Sun.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday.
In a statement before Lee’s trial, Corwin’s family said, “We are coping the best that we can given the circumstances. … We have complete faith in the San Bernardino County DA’s Office that justice will be served swiftly and without prejudice.”