DNA found on a machete suggests it was used to kill and dismember a Southern California woman last seen five years ago when she traveled to Panama with a retired Marine formerly based at Camp Pendleton, according to federal prosecutors.
Court documents filed Wednesday state that blood found under the handle of the machete contained the DNA of Yvonne Baldelli.
In September 2011, Baldelli left Dana Point, California, with her boyfriend Brian Brimager, a retired U.S. Marine. The couple traveled to Panama to stay on Isla Carenero, an island off the coast accessible only by boat.
Baldelli was last seen with Brimager at a restaurant on Nov. 26, 2011. Nearly two years after she vanished, Baldelli’s remains were found on a small island off the Isla Carenero coastline. Scientists used DNA analysis on her skull and bones to identify her.
Prosecutors allege Brimager killed Baldelli, dumped her remains in the Panamanian jungle, and then went to extreme measures to cover up her death, including withdrawing money from her bank account and sending emails from her laptop to make it seem as if she was still alive.
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, Brimager was indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego on a charge of foreign murder of a U.S. National. He pleaded not guilty.
Court documents say Brimager used the victim’s laptop to search for information on how to get blood stains out of a mattress. He’s also accused of stuffing Baldelli’s belongings into garbage bags and disposing of the bags on a dock outside their hostel.
According to prosecutors, the defendant allegedly pretended to be Baldelli in emails sent to family and friends to make it appear like she was still alive. The emails to her family said Baldelly was happy and traveling to Costa Rica with another man.
Brimager also allegedly used Baldelli’s ATM card in Costa Rica and San Jose.
Prosecutors said Brimager lied to investigators about Baldelli’s disappearance and told them she took her laptop while traveling. Her laptop was found in his possession in 2012, at which point he changed his story, adding that he never sent emails from it.
After Baldelli turned up missing, family members joined the search for her in the swamps of Panama against the backdrop of happy, tanning tourists – a difficult memory Baldelli's loved ones said they will never forget.