SAN DIEGO (AP) — A jury on Wednesday convicted members of a sadomasochistic triangle in the killing of a Marine's wife, who authorities said had innocently befriended the trio but did not participate in their sex activities.
The three murder convictions followed a lurid, five-week trial in which prosecutors told jurors that former Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Ray Perez, 49, Dorothy Maraglino, 40, and Jessica Lopez, 28, carried out the killing of 22-year-old Brittany Killgore to fulfill a sadistic fantasy.
Perez covered his face with his hands as the verdicts were read, while the other defendants stared blankly ahead. All three were also convicted of kidnapping, torture and attempted sexual battery.
Perez and Maraglino were also found guilty of conspiracy to kidnap; Lopez was acquitted of that charge. Each of the three defendants could face a life sentence.
Killgore had planned to return to Pennsylvania after filing for divorce from her husband, who was deployed to Afghanistan at the time. She was last seen with Perez, who had offered to help her move from her apartment in Fallbrook, a small community next to the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base.
Killgore's nude body was found near Lake Skinner on April 17, 2012 — four days after she vanished. The mystery deepened when investigators arrested Lopez after finding her in a San Diego hotel room with self-inflicted cuts and what they said appeared to be a suicide note and confession laced with profanity.
Lopez said in the seven-page letter that she shot Killgore with a stun gun, wrapped a rope around her neck, buried her face in a pillow and strangled her.
Authorities said Lopez claimed in the letter that she killed Killgore out of fear that the woman would steal away Perez, whom she described as her "master." Maraglino was pregnant with Perez's son at the time.
Search warrants gave no indication that Killgore was involved in the sadomasochistic triangle, and prosecutors described her as an innocent victim who had met the trio through a mutual friend.
Prosecutors said Perez took Killgore to his Fallbrook home, which he shared with Lopez and Maraglino. Sheriff's detectives said they found "bondage-type sex apparatuses, toys and tools" at the residence.
At one point, Killgore texted "help" to a friend, prosecutors said.
Prosecutor Patrick Espinoza told jurors the three defendants killed Killgore "for their own sadistic pleasure."
Defense attorneys acknowledged their clients were involved in bondage and sadomasochism but insisted their activities were consensual.
Lopez's attorney, Sloan Ostbye, called her client "the perfect slave" in the triangle and said her role explained why she authored the letter taking full blame for Killgore's death.
Perez's attorney, Brad Patton, said Lopez killed Killgore, and Perez helped dump the body. Maraglino's attorney, Jane Kinsey, told jurors that her client was guilty of covering up for Perez but not committing the killing.
Soon after Killgore vanished, detectives searched Perez's mud-caked Ford Explorer and found a plastic bag with a stun gun, latex gloves and Killgore's blood. His DNA was found on the weapon. After her arrest, Maraglino gave birth to Perez's daughter.