Former U.S. Marine is sentenced to life without parole for killing neighbor's pregnant wife

A former U.S. Marine was sentenced to life in prison without parole Tuesday for the murder of a pregnant woman whose body was found in the bottom of an abandoned mine shaft outside Twentynine Palms in 2014.  

Christopher Brandon Lee, 27, was convicted on Nov. 3 of killing 19-year-old Erin Corwin, who was married to another Marine.

In addition to finding Lee guilty of first-degree murder, the jury also found true a special sentencing enhancement that Lee had lain in wait for Corwin. 

“I’m glad the victim’s family was able to get some sense of peace,” prosecutor Sean Daugherty said. “I think the defendant’s cold-blooded actions here were just devastating to that family.”

Lee’s conviction came just days after he admitted to the killing in court.  

According to the Desert Sun newspaper, Lee testified that he’d been distraught, in part, because he was denied deployment, and also because he suspected Corwin had molested his daughter, according to the newspaper.

On Tuesday, Daugherty dismissed Lee’s claims of abuse. 

“It was clear throughout the trial that what he would do is craft a story around a set of facts,” Daugherty said. “I think that allegation, that assertion, was nonsense and meant simply to try and mitigate any punishment.”

Investigators said Corwin and Lee, who were next-door neighbors at the Marine Corps base in Twentynine Palms, were having an affair. Corwin was pregnant with Lee’s child when she was killed. 

Corwin’s husband reported her missing on June 28, 2014, when she did not return home from a trip to Joshua Tree National Park. 

A day after search crews found Corwin’s body on Aug. 16, 2014, Lee was arrested in Alaska, where he and his family had moved after he was discharged from the Marines in July of that year.

brittny.mejia@latimes.com

Twitter: @Brittny_Mejia

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