SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - Christopher Brandon Lee, 24, made his first appearance in an Anchorage, Alaska, courtroom Tuesday on murder charges in the death of 19-year-old Erin Corwin. He fought his extradition to California and is being held on a $2 million bail.
After nearly eight weeks of a tireless search and with the help of video equipment, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department discovered Corwin's body on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. 140 feet down the Rose of Peru mine shaft, outside of the Joshua Tree National Park, several miles southeast of Twentynine Palms. A search and rescue team couldn't recover her body until 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Dental records confirmed it was Erin at 9:30 p.m. Lee was arrested at 10 p.m. during a traffic stop near his family's home in Alaska.
Corwin, a Tennessee native, was pregnant and lived with her husband, Marine Cpl. Jonathan Corwin, on the Twentynine Palms Marine Base. A crime report provided by the county district attorney's office says Erin told a friend that she had planned to take a special trip to Joshua Tree National Park with Lee on June 28, the day she disappeared.
Police said Lee, an ex-Earine who is also married and has a child, had an intimate relationship with Erin. Documents stated Lee initially denied having an affair with Erin, but he did admit to detectives of searching the internet for information on how to dispose of a body.
Tire marks, rebar and bullet casings found near the mine shaft pointed investigators to Lee, according to the crime report.
Less than 24 hours after the Sheriff's Department announced the discovery of Erin's remains, San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos officially filed charges against Lee in the murder of his alleged lover and former neighbor Erin.
In court tuesday he did not waive his extradition, which could take four to six weeks to bring him back to California. Gov. Jerry Brown of California will have to send a request to the governor of Alaska to begin the process of extradition.
The DA also filed a special circumstance allegation of "lying in wait," which means Lee could potentially face life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
"Our investigation led us to believe that there was an intimate relationship between Christopher Lee and Erin Corwin, which in term assisted highly in our investigative leads as far as theories and whether or not Christopher Lee was involved in her disappearance," said Sgt. Travis Newport of the Sna Bernardino County Sheriff's Dept.
Lee will appear back in Alaska court next week.