The man accused of killing a Marine's wife and dumping her body at the bottom of a 140-foot mine shaft near Joshua Tree National Park was charged Tuesday with murder, prosecutors said.
Cpl. Christopher Brandon Lee was arrested by federal authorities on Sunday in Anchorage, more than a month after Erin Corwin, 19, went missing June 28.
Lee, a former next-door neighbor who is suspected of having had an affair with Corwin, also faces a special allegation of “lying in wait,” which could increase the potential punishment to life without parole or death, according to the San Bernardino County district attorney's office.
“The decision regarding which penalty will be sought will be made after a full review of the facts and evidence in the case,” Dist. Atty. Michael Ramos said.
Corwin's body was found Saturday in a 140-foot mineshaft in rugged terrain several miles southeast of the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base, where she lived. Her body was positively identified through dental records Sunday night, and Lee was arrested a half hour later in Anchorage on suspicion of murder.
The last major development in the search for Corwin was reported June 30, when authorities found her car abandoned a couple of minutes away from her home. Near her car, detectives found a shoe print and a set of tire marks, which they said matched those on Lee's vehicle, according to the warrant.
In a message posted on the Facebook page, Locate Erin, Corwin's family asked for privacy in the wake of the discovery of body and Lee's arrest.
"Though we were praying for a different outcome, we are relieved to have this part of the investigation behind us and to be able to begin mourning the loss of our sweet girl," they wrote. "Please continue to pray for our family and that justice will be found for Erin."
If Lee waives extradition, he can be returned to Southern California immediately. If not, the process could take four to six weeks, prosecutors said.
“Once again, we are faced with a terrible crime that shows absolutely no regard for the value of human life,” Ramos said. “Make no mistake that this office will fight to see that justice is carried out for our victim and her family.”
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