Verdict reached in Erin Corwin murder trial

A jury found Christopher Lee guilty of the 2014 murder of Erin Corwin.

SAN BERNARDINO, CALIF. - The jury has reached a verdict in the murder trial for a former Marine who admitted to killing an Oak Ridge native. 

The San Bernardino District Attorney's Office announced around 2:45 p.m. Eastern time that the verdict in the Christopher Lee case will be read at 4:30 p.m.

 Lee testified in court that he killed Corwin, his 19-year-old lover, during a fit of anger. 

Former Marine admits killing Oak Ridge native Erin Corwin

A former Twentynine Palms Marine continued testifying Tuesday that he killed his 19-year-old lover before disposing of her body in a 140-foot mine shaft, where it remained for weeks as a community rallied to find the missing woman.

Christopher Lee testified in San Bernardino County Superior Court he strangled Erin Corwin during a fit of anger but he's since calmed down and wants to come clean.

"I'm no longer scared to tell the truth. People have to know what I did," Lee testified as his criminal trial resumed.

PREVIOUS: Opening statements begin in Erin Corwin trial

Deputy District Attorney Sean Daugherty asked Lee if he's the one who killed Corwin, and Lee said "Yes I am." Daugherty asked if he's the one who strangled her, and Lee said "Yes I am."

Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday.

Corwin, who was married to another Marine from the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, disappeared in June 2014. After a nearly two-month search, her body was found hidden in an abandoned mine shaft in a remote area of the high desert near Joshua Tree National Park.

Lee was arrested in August 2014 in Alaska, where he and his family moved after Corwin went missing. Prosecutors have said they think Lee lured Corwin into the desert and killed her to hide an affair between the two.

Officials say Corwin was pregnant and Lee was the child's father.

Prosecutors displayed a photo of Corwin's bloody and crumpled body. It was on a screen directly behind the witness stand, where Lee sat as he calmly provided details about the night Corwin died.

The pair rendezvoused for what Corwin believed would be a romantic evening with a marriage proposal. They ended up outside the mine and argued because Lee, who'd been suicidal for a month and played Russian Roulette, wanted to attempt suicide outside the mine.

He'd been distraught, in part, because he was denied deployment - an act the defendant considered heroic among Marines. Lee also became angry because he said he suspected Corwin molested his daughter.

"I made the decision to kill her," Lee testified. "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 released his hold and her body fell to the ground. He spent 30 seconds checking if she was alive, but found no signs of life.

The defendant testified he then dragged the body to the mine shaft and pushed Corwin in head first. The prosecution showed a video of the mine shaft and Corwin's right foot was visible among other debris that's considered evidence. Evidence also included the garrote and a propane tank similar to one Lee owned.

Lee's attorney, David Kaloyanides, briefly questioned his client, trying to emphasize that the killing was not pre-meditated. But Daugherty chastised Lee for constantly lying to investigators and not admitting his involvement until he was in court in front of an audience.

"You chose to do it in front of the jury," Daugherty said. "It's about you; you wanted attention."

Lee is charged with first-degree murder with a sentencing enhancement for intentionally killing Corwin by means of lying in wait.


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