Erin Corwin case: Police looking for 'crime scene'

High Desert law enforcement says that "suspicious circumstances" exist in the disappearance of Marine wife Erin Corwin, but it's still possible that the pregnant Marine wife from Oak Ridge may have run off on her own accord.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department issued a release midday Tuesday saying that investigators have searched several locations over the past three weeks "for potential evidence of foul play," but there is still not enough evidence to rule out that Corwin "could be voluntarily missing."

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"We are looking for a crime scene," said Leland Boldt, the captain of the department's Specialized Investigation Division.

The press release comes one day after The Desert Sun obtained public court documents detailing the inner workings of the search for Corwin. On Monday, a Desert Sun reporter pulled copies of a search warrant affidavit filed in the case from a courthouse in Joshua Tree.

The affidavit revealed that — although the sheriff's department had insisted it had no suspects — detectives have been extensively investigating Christopher Lee, a former Marine who lived next to Corwin and may have been having an affair with the missing woman. The sheriff's department has searched Lee's home, his Jeep, and a second home where he lived temporarily.

As a result of those searches, Lee was arrested on an unrelated allegation. On July 4, detectives arrested Lee on suspicion of "possession of a destructive device" — a potato gun — after searching a home on Geronimo Trail in Yucca Valley.

READ: Full search warrant (PDF)

READ: Statement of probable cause

In the press release issued Tuesday, the sheriff's department said that Lee's arrest is unrelated to the disappearance of Corwin. However, court documents reveal that deputies were searching the house on Geronimo Trail as part of the Corwin search.

The press release states that the department will not discuss the content of the search warrant documents.

"It is unfortunate such extensive details were released regarding this investigation because it can affect the outcome of the case," the press release states. "The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department has a responsibility to Erin's family, her loved ones and her unborn child to provide answers regarding her disappearance. It is essential the integrity of the investigation be maintained in order for justice to be served."

The court documents obtained by The Desert Sun were not sealed.

The search warrant affidavit also reveals that Corwin told a friend she was with Lee the day she disappeared. According to the affidavit, Corwin and Lee had planned a "special day together" — a hunting trip. The day trip was meant to celebrate Corwin's pregnancy, but detectives said Lee was afraid his wife would discover their affair.

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"It is highly likely that Erin could have been harmed by an unknown firearm," detectives wrote in court documents. "Sometime after Erin left with Lee, her phone was deactivated (turned off). Detectives believe if Erin was injured and left at an undisclosed location, she would not (be) able to call for help."

Corwin disappeared June 28, after she left her Twentynine Palms home, saying she was headed to Joshua Tree National Park. Her husband, Marine Cpl. Jonathan Corwin, reported his wife missing the next day. Authorities have searched for Erin Corwin ever since.

The affidavit also reveals that deputies found 10 spent .40-caliber bullet casings in Lee's Jeep. Tire tracks found behind the Twentynine Palms Marine base link the Jeep to Corwin's car.

Corwin's car, a blue Toyota sedan, was found near the base's back gate on June 30, two days after she disappeared.

According to the newly released court documents, police found a single set of shoe tracks at Corwin's abandoned vehicle. The tracks led from the driver side door of her Toyota and then disappeared next to a set of tire tracks. The court document states that tracks found at the scene are "consistent" with the tire tracks left by Lee's Jeep.

Finally, the affidavit states that Lee's wife, Nichole, admitted to a friend that the couple had something to hide. According to the court document, Nichole Lee berated her husband for not having an alibi and for "not being able to keep his lies straight." The friend interviewed by deputies was Isabel Megli, owner of the White Rock Horse Rescue Ranch in Yucca Valley, where both Lee and Corwin own horses.

"Nichole made statements to Isabel about the detectives having missed something at their residence when it was searched because detectives did not search the garage," the affidavit states. "Nichole told Isabel that without a body the detectives did not have a case against them and the detectives would never find the body."

When contacted Monday evening, Megli told The Desert Sun she and Nichole Lee weren't specifically talking about the Corwin case, but similar cases.


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