SAN BERNARDINO – County District Attorney Mike Ramos might have inadvertently offered a clue as to how dozens of law enforcement officers and volunteers discovered the whereabouts of a pregnant 20-year-old woman who had been missing since June 28.
Appearing on KFI’s John & Ken Show, a radio program based out of Los Angeles, Ramos was unable to acknowledge evidence that led to the discovery of Erin Corwin’s body, found last Saturday at the bottom of a 140-foot mine shaft. “We’re still in the investigation stages,” said Ramos, who spent about seven minutes discussing the case against Christopher Brandon Lee, 24, an ex-Marine who was linked to Corwin through inconsistent statements and witness statements of neighbors and friends.
One key element of the case was how Corwin’s body was discovered in a vast range of desert and an estimated 100 deserted mine shafts that are located near Joshua Tree National Forest, the area in which Corwin was headed on the day she went missing. Ramos said he was unable to divulge how Corwin’s body was located, but stated that Corwin’s car, discovered in early July, had her footprints leading to a Jeep with tire tracks that matched that of Lee’s vehicle.
Search teams were able to start from that general area, said Ramos. Using technology, electronic devices and cellular phones, experts were able to zero in on Corwin’s location. Ramos also disclosed that evidence showed that Lee, who was romantically linked to Corwin despite earlier denials to the contrary, had done research on ways to get rid of a human body. Witnesses told investigators that Lee had asked on ways to dispose of a body; also, he had researched possible ways on the internet.
Corwin’s body was discovered on Saturday, but her identity wasn’t determined until the next day. At 10 p.m. in Anchorage, Alaska, law enforcement officials arrested Lee for murder. Lee, who was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps, moved with his wife Nicole and their infant daughter back to Alaska, where he was from. “The FBI knew his whereabouts,” said Ramos, adding that local law enforcement agencies also had knowledge on his location. Ramos did not disclose how Corwin was killed, nor was he able to offer any ideas about possible motives, awaiting an autopsy report.
Lee, who will be charged with murder and also on charges of lying in wait for a victim, will be extradited to California, likely in about one month. Charges may also be filed against his wife. Lee and Corwin were neighbors at the Twentynine Palms Marine base. The case has received national publicity, with Corwin’s wedding photos – married to U.S. Marine Corporal Jonathan Corwin – on the cover of People Magazine. Law enforcement officials offered huge praise to the volunteers who scoured hundreds of miles of desert, including the abandoned mines, to locate Corwin’s body. Investigators had lowered a camera into the mine shaft as part of the search process.
San Bernardino County DA: DA Ramos files murder charge
Desert Sun: Christopher Lee charged with murder