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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Brittany Killgore Sex Dungeon Murder Case

     After two years of marriage to Lance Corporal Cory Killgore, 22-year-old Brittany Killgore, on April 11, 2012, filed for divorce. The Marine was serving in Afghanistan. Brittany lived in Fallbrook, California, a San Diego County town of 38,000 not far from Camp Pendleton, the U.S. Marine base.

     At two in the afternoon on Saturday, April 14, 2012, one of Brittany Killgore's friends called the San Diego County Sheriff's Office to report her missing. The caller had last seen Killgore at 7 PM the day before when she stopped by the friend's apartment to borrow a dress. Killgore said she was going on a date with a 45-year-old Marine staff sergeant named Louis Ray Perez who was picking her up in less than an hour. They were going into downtown San Diego.

     At 7:45 that Friday evening, the friend received a text message from Killgore's cellphone that read, "Help." The friend texted back, "What? R U okay?" When Brittany didn't respond, the friend texted, "Brittany are U okay? I am freaking out here." At 8:05 PM the friend received another message from Killgore's cellphone that read, "Yes I love this party." The worried friend considered this text suspicious because Killgore always used the word "Yeah" instead of "yes" in her text messaging. That was the last the friend heard from Killgore's phone. (A transient in downtown San Diego later found Killgore's cellphone in the doorway of a Comfort Inn.)

     A detective with the San Diego Sheriff's Office called Sergeant Louis Perez (who didn't have a criminal record) and asked if he'd come in for questioning regarding the Killgore missing persons case. Perez said he would and showed up at the sheriff's office shortly after the call.

     According to the 16-year veteran of the Marine Corps, he had gone to Killgore's apartment at four o'clock Friday afternoon to help her pack for her upcoming move to another place. He asked her if she'd like to go out on a dinner-dance boat that evening in downtown San Diego. Killgore declined, saying that she was tired. Soon after Perez left Killgore's apartment at 5:10 PM, she sent him a text saying she had changed her mind. Perez returned to her place at 7:30 for the date.

     According to the Marine's statement, he dropped Brittany off in downtown San Diego in front of a club called the Whisky Girl Night while he looked for a place to park. Fifteen minutes later, when he arrived at the club on foot, he couldn't find her. Perez looked around for 30 minutes, then headed home to the house he shared in Fallbrook with his girlfriend, 36-year-old Dorothy Grace Marie Maraglino and her friend, Jessica Lynn Lopez, 25.

     The deputy who interviewed Perez that afternoon asked if he could take a look inside the white Ford Explorer the Marine had driven to the sheriff's office. Perez said he had no problem with that.

     The first thing the detective noticed about Perez's car was the fresh mud caked on the underside of the vehicle and in its wheel wells. The Marine's shoes were also muddy. Perez told the officer that the car had gotten that way when he recently collected firewood near Camp Pendleton. The deputy took a plastic bag from inside the car that contained a pair of blue latex gloves which appeared to be blood-stained. (A presumptive luminal test confirmed it was blood and later DNA analysis identified the blood as Brittany Killgore's.) Perez also possessed a stun gun that had a human hair follicle attached to it. At this point in the investigation, Sergeant Perez became a suspect in Brittany Killgore's disappearance and possible murder. The deputy, after recovering a stolen AR 15 assault rifle from Perez's Ford Explorer, arrested him on a charge of theft. The "person of interest" in the Killgore case was taken to jail where he was incarcerated under $500,000 bond.

     From Perez's cellphone, investigators collected messages sent from his phone to Killgore's. The first message, sent at 9:20 PM on Friday, April 13, almost two hours after Killgore's "help" text, said, "Your friends are calling me worried." Later that evening, at a time investigators believe Killgore was dead, Perez had texted, "Now I am worried too."

     When the San Diego detectives questioned the suspect's housemate, Dorothy Maraglino, the 37-year-old said Perez had returned home Friday night sometime between 10 PM and midnight. He remained in the Fallbrook house until he left for San Diego the next day in response to the call from the sheriff's office.

     On April 15, San Diego deputies searched the Perez/Maraglino/Lopez house in Fallbrook where they suspected Brittany Killgore had been murdered. The searchers discovered that one of the rooms in the dwelling had been set up as a "sex dungeon" equipped with a variety of "sex apparatuses, toys, and tools" such as handcuffs, whips, leather restraints, and chain shackles. When asked about this sadomasochistic playroom, Dorothy Maraglino and Jessica Lopez explained that they participated in erotic master-servant and master-slave role-playing. Dorothy identified herself as the dominatrix and said that Louis Perez enjoyed spanking women.

     The Killgore missing persons/murder investigation took an even more bizarre turn on April 16, 2012 when investigators learned that master Dorothy and her slave Jessica had checked into the Ramada Inn located in the Point Loma section of San Diego. Deputies showed up at room 105 at 9:30 that morning. Lopez, in a drowsy voice, told the officers she was too exhausted to come to the door to let them in. When a deputy cracked the door open as far as the interior door chain would allow, the officer saw blood on the floor. Another officer kicked the door open and the police stormed into the motel room.

     The sheriff's deputies found Jessica Lopez, naked from the waist up and covered in blood from self-inflicted superficial knife wounds on her neck and wrists. (Maraglino had left the motel.) A message in lipstick scrawled on the mirror above the dressing table read: "PIGS READ THIS." Below this message lay a 7-page, handwritten murder confession signed by Jessica Lopez.

     In the confession, Lopez admitted using a ligature, in the sex dungeon in the Fallbrook house, to strangle Brittany Killgore to death. She killed the victim out of fear Louis Perez would be seduced by her. After half-hearted attempts to dismember Killgore's body, Lopez doused the naked body with bleach to destroy physical evidence. Lopez wrote that she "hid the body of that whore in almost plain sight" near Lake Skinner, noting that the police would find handcuff marks on the victim's wrists. Lopez said she had deposited the knife she had used in her attempts to "chop her up" in a beach restroom in Oceanside. The police would also find a pair of handcuffs with the knife. In her statement/suicide note, Lopez said she was taking full responsibility for Killgore's murder.

     At 2:30 that afternoon, searchers located Killgore's naked remains lying in the brush along the side of a road near Riverside County's Lake Skinner, 23 miles north of Fallbrook. The police arrested Jessica Lopez on April 17, 2012 on the charge of murder. Louis Perez, already in custody on the gun theft case, was charged with murder as well. Dorothy Maraglino was taken into custody on May 10, 2012. The three suspects were held on $3 million bond and all pleaded not guilty.

     At a Killgore murder case preliminary hearing that got underway on March 11, 2013 in Vista County Superior Court, the victim's best friend Elizabeth Hernandez testified that she and Killgore became acquainted with Marine Sergeant Louis Perez, Jessica Lopez, and Dorothy Maraglino in 2011 after Hernandez responded to an ad selling a fertility monitor on a website used by military families. Hernandez said she befriended Maraglino because the two of them were trying to get pregnant. After that, Brittany Killgore regularly visited the house where Maragalino resided with Lopez.

     Hernandez testified that Perez, Lopez, and Maragalino openly discussed their sexual lifestyle that involved Perez as the master, Maragalino as the mistress, and Lopez as the slave. In their sex dungeon they had painted a giant spider web on the wall and bars on the ceiling. According to the preliminary hearing witness, Hernandez and Killgore made it clear they were not going to participate in the sex games.

     In 2012, Elizabeth Hernandez and Killgore had a falling out. At that time, Killgore was preparing to divorce her husband, Lance Corporal Cory Killgore. Hernandez testified that she discussed the souring of their friendship with Louis Perez, Lopez and Maragalino. After that, Lopez and Maragalino began referring to Killgore as "the disease" and "herpes." According to Hernandez, Perez and Maragalino said they could get rid of Killgore but they wouldn't because they knew Hernandez would miss her. Hernandez said she thought they were joking.

     On March 14, 2013, Deputy Medical Examiner Craig Nelson testified that the victim had been strangled with some kind of ligature and that her body had been moved to where it was found near Lake Skinner. The forensic pathologist said their were two marks on Killgore's neck and tiny hemorrhages in her eyes that indicated strangulation as the cause of death. Dr. Nelson had also discovered cuts on the victim's left wrist and left knee that suggested that someone had attempted to dismember the body. The cut to the left leg was so deep it reached the bone. The bone contained tool marks that indicated a saw had been used in the dismemberment attempt. This had occurred postmortem.

     A woman followed Dr. Nelson to the stand who said she had lived in the Maraglino house for three months in late 2010. According to this witness, she had been Maraglino's sex slave for a time and knew that Maraglino and Louis Perez enjoyed choking their sex partners.

     On March 16, 2013, Vista Superior Court Judge K. Michael Kirkman ruled that the prosecution in the Killgore case had presented enough evidence against the defendants to justify a murder trial.

     On April 8, 2014, murder defendant Dorothy Maragalino, represented by the fourth attorney assigned to her since 2012, was back in court filing motions that would delay the progress of the case. Initially, Maragalino had insisted on representing herself then changed her mind. After dismissing her next two lawyers, the judge assigned her a public defender who asked to be removed from the case, Attorney Jane Kinsey, the fourth defense attorney, needed more time to prepare. Judge Kirkman granted the motion.

     That April, Jessica Lopez's attorney, Sloan Ostby, asked the judge for more time to study the 7,345 pages of documents he had demanded from the prosecution on discovery. Ostby said he also had to review 165 DVDs that had been supplied by the state. The judge granted this motion.

     Attorney Brad Patton, representing Louis Perez, the accused sex dungeon master, filed a series of pretrial motions in 2014 that slowed progress in the case. On December 12, 2014, perhaps in an attempt to move things along, the district attorney's office announced it will not seek the death penalty against the defendants. Judge Kirkman set the murder trial for June 1, 2015.


   

     

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