A retired U.S. Marine has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the 2011 death of his girlfriend, a Southern California woman whose remains were found on a remote island near Panama.
Brian Brimager will be imprisoned for the murder of Yvonne Baldelli after entering a guilty plea Wednesday at the San Diego federal courthouse.
Baldelli vanished five years ago when she traveled to Panama with her boyfriend, Brimager, a retired Marine formerly based at Camp Pendleton. The couple left Dana Point, California, in September 2011 to stay on Isla Carenero, an island off the coast accessible only by boat. Baldelli was last seen at a restaurant with Brimager on Nov. 26, 2011.
Brimager admitted Wednesday he stabbed Baldelli in the back on Nov. 27, 2011, then used a machete to dismember her before dumping her remains in the jungle. He also admitted to using a computer in an effort to convince family members that Baldelli was not only still alive but had traveled to Costa Rica with another man.
Authorities said Brimager withdrew money from Baldelli's bank account and sent emails from her laptop, including messages to her family saying Baldelli was happy.
According to court documents, Brimager used the laptop to search for information on how to remove blood stains from a mattress. He’s also accused of stuffing Baldelli’s belongings into garbage bags and disposing of the bags on a dock outside the couple's hostel.
Prosecutors said Brimager lied to investigators about Baldelli’s disappearance and told them she took her laptop while traveling. In 2012, he was found with the computer in his possession, at which point Brimager changed his story but said he never used it to send emails.
Baldelli’s remains were found in 2013 on a small island off the Isla Carenero coastline. Scientists identified her body using DNA analysis on her skull and bones. Her DNA was also found under the handle of a machete, prosecutors revealed last week.
Brimager has been in U.S. custody since June 2013 on charges of obstruction of justice, giving false statements to a federal officer and falsifying records.
In April 2015, he was indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego on a charge of foreign murder of a U.S. national. Brimager initially pleaded not guilty.
Just last week, court documents were filed revealing a machete was the weapon in this grisly murder, and that blood found under the handle of that machete contained Baldelli's DNA.