By Marty Graham
VISTA, California (Reuters) - An expectant mother has become the third suspect to plead not guilty to murder charges in the mysterious slaying of a young woman killed in California while her husband, a U.S. Marine from Camp Pendleton, was away in Afghanistan.
Dorothy Grace Maraglino, who is several months pregnant, is one of three friends, including another Camp Pendleton Marine, who shared a San Diego-area home where the victim, Brittany Killgore, 22, was slain on April 13, prosecutors said.
Maraglino, 36, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in Killgore's death at an arraignment in Vista, California, on Tuesday, after which prosecutors outlined for reporters new details about how detectives believe the victim met her killers.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Tamila Ipema ordered Maraglino, who stood holding her rounded belly during the hearing, to remain jailed on $3 million bail.
Her two roommates and co-defendants -- Marine Staff Sergeant Louis Ray Perez, 45, and Jessica Lynn Lopez, 22 -- previously entered not-guilty pleas to the same charges. They, too, were each ordered held in lieu of $3 million bond.
Killgore's nude body was found on April 17 in a remote area of Riverside County, north of San Diego, but authorities have not publicly disclosed how she was murdered.
The victim was last seen alive wearing a purple gown on Friday, April 13, before heading out on what was supposed to be a dinner date, according to the sheriff's department investigators. She had filed for divorce from her husband days earlier, court records showed.
Killgore first met Perez and the two others charged with her murder when she accompanied a friend to the suspects' home to buy something her friend had seen advertised online, Deputy District Attorney Patrick Espinoza told reporters following Tuesday's hearing.
Police detectives have learned that after their first meeting, Maraglino agreed to go out with Perez for a supper cruise, despite misgivings she had about "ill will" she felt was directed at her by Maraglino, Espinoza said.
Investigators have concluded that Perez picked Killgore up on April 13 and instead of going on the cruise brought her back to his house, and sent Maraglino a text message asking her to come home right away, Espinoza said. The prosecutor refused to discuss what happened next that led to Killgore's death.
Maraglino is charged with murder for her role in aiding and abetting the slaying, according to Espinoza. "She was involved before, during and after the murder," he said.
The victim's husband, Lance Corporal Cory Killgore, has since returned from deployment to bury his wife.
"Her murder has left me devastated, he said in a sheriff's department website message posted on April 24. "My duty to her memory is to ensure her good reputation remains intact and help law enforcement and prosecutors secure justice for the persons who took her away from me."
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Lisa Shumaker)