A Marine’s wife who was killed and left on the side of the road in California texted a friend for help on the night of her disappearance, a deputy district attorney said in court.
Investigators say that three days after seeking a divorce from her husband deployed in Afghanistan, 22-year-old Brittany Killgore of San Diego disappeared after a night out with another Marine.
On Thursday that Marine, Luis Ray Perez, 45, was charged with first-degree murder in Killgore’s death.
Prosecutors outlined their version of Killgore's last hours alive.
"She sent a text saying, 'Help,'" Patrick Espinoza, a deputy district attorney in San Diego County, said in court. "She was missing from that point on."
Killgore's message to an unidentified friend was disclosed at an arraignment for Perez, who pleaded not guilty to murder.
The brief hearing offered the most details yet of what authorities believe happened to Killgore after she disappeared on April 13.
Espinoza said investigators found Killgore's blood and a weapon in Perez's car. He also said Perez told investigators he dropped off Killgore in downtown San Diego's bustling Gaslamp District, but investigators concluded that he lied about his whereabouts and stayed in the town of Fallbrook, about 60 miles north, where Killgore lived.
Authorities said Killgore's body was found in brush near Lake Skinner on April 17, only hours after paramedics were called to a San Diego motel and found another woman with self-inflicted cuts and a suicide note.
Jessica Lynn Lopez, 25, was the woman found at the motel, authorities said. She also has pleaded not guilty to murder.
The prosecutor said Lopez and Perez once lived together but didn't indicate when or where. Lopez currently lives a mile from Killgore's second-floor apartment overlooking Camp Pendleton.
Espinoza didn't disclose a possible motive or other details about the death during the hearing, and he later declined to elaborate on the investigation.
It's still unclear how Killgore died and whether the unspecified weapon authorities said they found in Perez's car was used in the killing.
Perez's attorney, Jeff Reichert, said Lopez's suicide note shows "very, very clearly" that she killed Killgore and that his client was not involved.
"The court has information in its hands that exonerates my client on this charge," Reichert said.
However, details of the note were not released, and Superior Court Judge Kimberlee Lagotta ordered it to be sealed.
Perez, a Marine for 16 years who is married and has lived in the San Diego area for 10 years, has also pleaded not guilty to stealing an assault weapon. The prosecutor said Perez stole the weapon and a motorcycle from a trailer at Camp Pendleton.
The death has shaken many at Camp Pendleton and neighboring Fallbrook, known for its rolling hills and avocado orchards. The Killgores lived in one of several apartment complexes on Ammunition Road that advertise special rates for military members and is close to a base entrance.
Killgore recently separated from Marine Lance Cpl. Cory Killgore, who was in Afghanistan when she disappeared. She cited irreconcilable differences in her divorce filing but gave no other details.
Cory Killgore made his first public comments about his wife's death in a statement released Thursday by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department:
"My wife Brittany, was beautiful beyond words and her murder has left me devastated. My duty to her memory is now to ensure her good reputation remains intact, and help law enforcement and prosecutors secure justice for the person, or persons who took her away from me.
Brittany's death cannot be in vain – at this point, I don't know how to use this tragedy for good, but others have found their way and I hope to do the same. Brittany meant too much to do any less. As my father‐in‐law said, please honor my wife's name and don't succumb to salacious gossip and rumor. Brittany was a beautiful, good person, who did not deserve this."
The judge set bail at $3 million each for Perez and Lopez and scheduled a preliminary hearing for May 30. If convicted, they could face maximum sentences of life in prison.
This report includes information from NBCLosAngeles.com, NBCSanDiego.com and The Associated Press.
More content from msnbc.com and NBC News:
- Lawyer: Autistic boy's teacher didn't call him 'bastard'
- Which dress will get you barred from this prom?
- Letters threaten North Carolina Muslims with Klan-like abuse
- Gay mom upset after dismissal by Boy Scouts
- Anti-UN-environment bill heads for passage in Ariz.
- New report of Secret Service debauchery