Shocking Courtroom Confession in Marine Wife's Murder

The body of Erin Corwin was found 140 feet down a mine shaft in the Southern California desert.

A former Marine shocked the courtroom during his own murder trial, admitting to strangling the wife of another Marine and pushing her head-first down an abandoned mine shaft in the remote California desert.

Christopher Brandon Lee, 27, made those statements after taking the stand Thursday in testimony that continued into Tuesday, The Desert Sun reported.

Lee had pleaded not guilty to killing 19-year-old Erin Corwin, with whom Lee's suspected of having an affair.

"I'm no longer scared to tell the truth. People have to know what I did," Lee testified in San Bernardino County Superior Court.

When prosecutor Sean Daugherty asked Lee if he's the one who strangled Corwin, he replied, "Yes, I am."

Corwin's body was found hidden 100 feet down a mine shaft in a remote area of the high desert near Joshua Tree National Park after a nearly two-month search. She had disappeared in June 2014.

Friends told investigators that Corwin, whose husband was stationed with Lee at the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base, believed she was pregnant and that Lee might be the father.

"I made the decision to kill her," Lee testified Tuesday. "I was controlled by the anger. The hate I felt that day. It was something I never want to experience again."

Lee said he approached Corwin from behind and strangled her for at least five minutes with a garrote made up of two pieces of rebar and a cord. He said he then dragged Corwin's body to the mine shaft and pushed her in head first.

Lee's attorney, David Kaloyanides, questioned his client only briefly, trying to emphasize that the Lee had not planned the killing.

Kaloyanides did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Lee testified that he decided to kill Corwin because he said she had molested one of his family members -- the first time that accusation has come to light.

An investigator and a spokeswoman with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, the agency in charge of investigating the case, didn't respond to telephone messages seeking comment about whether they had heard of the molestation accusation before or looked into it.

Closing arguments in the case are set for Wednesday.

Erin Corwin, 20, was last seen June 28, 2014. Her husband, a Marine corporal, reported her missing the next day when she did not return home from a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park. Corwin was reportedly three months pregnant.

Corwin's body was discovered days later 140 feet down a mine shaft in a remote area several miles southeast of Twentynine Palms on property owned by the Bureau of Land Management.

The search for Corwin spanned 300 square miles of the Mojave Desert. Hundreds of rescue workers and volunteers searched in helicopters and on the ground, often in sweltering heat. Dive teams searched bodies of water in the area.

Forensic exams of computers, cell phones and other electronic devices led detectives to a mine shaft outside Joshua Tree National Park.

Court documents obtained by The Desert Sun indicated that Corwin may have been having an affair with Lee. Evidence showed their relationship could have started as early as February 2014, Newport said Monday.

Corwin's friend from Tennessee confirmed to authorities that the two were romantically involved and that Lee was afraid his wife would find out, according to the court documents. The friend said they were planning a hunting trip for June 28 -- the day Corwin disappeared -- to celebrate the pregnancy.

Lee initially told investigators that Corwin was just an acquaintance but later admitted they had kissed and were growing closer.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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