Brittany Dawn Killgore
San Diego County Sheriff's Department/AP
03/19/2013 at 07:00 AM EDT
To Brittany Killgore – a 22-year-old beauty wearily packing her belongings after a painful decision to leave her husband Lance Cpl. Cory Killgore and move home – the Marine sergeant's offer seemed too good to pass up.
Join him on a dinner cruise that evening, and let him find men to help her pack, Sgt. Louis Ray Perez offered, according to court documents.
But police say they never made it to the cruise. Instead, Perez and two women, all members of a bondage role-playing group, allegedly tortured and strangled
Killgore in a Fallbrook, Calif., "sex dungeon" before dumping her nude and mutilated body in a rural lake.
A judge Monday found enough evidence to order a trial on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy, kidnapping and torture for the three in Killgore's death last April. The defendants are Perez, 46, his girlfriend Dorothy Grace Marie Maraglino, 37, and Jessica Lynn Lopez, 25 – Maraglino's "slave."
During a week-long preliminary hearing, deputy medical examiner Craig Nelson testified that marks and fractured cartilage on Killgore's neck "indicate the airway was crushed." He said the injuries suggested too much force to have been consensual.
After strangling Killgore, Nelson testified, her killers left bone-deep cuts on her left wrist and left knee, indicating they used a saw or similar tool to try to dismember her body.
A friend, Channy Tal, testified that Killgore texted the word "help" to her at about 7:50 p.m. last April 13 – soon after leaving for the cruise with Perez. She said she texted Killgore back, but got no reply.
Tal said she eventually contacted Perez, who told her he had dropped Killgore at a club, saw her go off with "two guys" and lost track of her. Tal and her friends reported Killgore missing the next morning.
Three days after Killgore disappeared, paramedics were called to a San Diego motel, where they found Lopez with what appeared to be self-inflicted cuts and a profanity-laced suicide note – appearing to admit the crime and leading investigators to the body.
A handwriting expert testified Friday that the letter was from Lopez. Cellphone towers also traced Lopez's phone to the area where Killgore's body was found, and Killgore's blood and a weapon were found in Perez's car.