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Slain wife of Marine sent 'distress' text before death, D.A. says

April 27, 2012 |  7:43 am

Slain wife of Marine sent 'distress' text before death, D.A. saysNew details emerged in the slaying of the 22-year-old wife of a Marine as another Marine staff sergeant pleaded not guilty Thursday in connection with her death.

A judge ordered Staff Sgt. Louis Perez, 45, held in jail on $3 million bail in the killing of Brittany Dawn Killgore, whose body was found dumped near Lake Skinner in Riverside County. She was the wife of Marine Lance Cpl. Cory Killgore, who was on deployment in Afghanistan when his wife was killed.

Brittany Killgore had been set to attend a dinner cruise in San Diego with Perez and his girlfriend on April 13 but instead sent a text message to a friend saying she was in "distress" and needed help, Deputy Dist. Atty. Patrick Espinoza said during an arraignment in San Diego County Superior Court. The friend was not identified.

Judge Kimberlee Lagotta set bail at the same amount for Perez as for Jessica Lynn Lopez, 25, also charged in connection with the slaying. Lopez, who shares the same Fallbrook address as Perez, also has pleaded not guilty.

Perez was the last person seen with Killgore on April 13. San Diego County sheriff's deputies interviewed him two days later, arresting him on suspicion of possessing a stolen assault rifle and labeling him as a person of interest in Killgore's disappearance.

Espinoza told the court Thursday that Perez's contention that he had dropped off Killgore at the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego was a lie: Perez never left Fallbrook, and killed Killgore while in his car, the prosecutor said.

Perez's attorney, Jeff Reichert, hinted at a possible defense strategy, pointing to the second suspect, Lopez, who was found April 17 in a motel in San Diego after attempting suicide, authorities said.

In a suicide note that authorities say Lopez left behind, she admits killing Killgore and exonerates Perez, Reichert told Lagotta, who has sealed the note without revealing its contents.


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-- Tony Perry in San Diego

Photo: Brittany Dawn Killgore. Credit: San Diego County Sheriff's Department