For about 24 hours, loved ones feared that the body of a woman found near Lake Skinner in Riverside County was that of 22-year-old Brittany Dawn Killgore, the missing wife of a U.S. Marine deployed overseas.
Now coroners have confirmed that it is Killgore -- and a tentative murder investigation becomes a definite one, with two people in custody.
The San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office made the announcement this evening, and another announcement was made as well: Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Ray Perez, one of the two people in custody, has pleaded not guilty to possessing a stolen AR-15 military assault rifle.
Perez, 45, was arrested on that charge while investigators questioned him about Brittany Killgore, after a witness said he came to pick her up at her Fallbrook home for a date last Friday evening -- the last time she was reported seen alive.
Perez has not been charged with murder and is considered a “person of interest” in the case as he deals with the separate assault weapon charge. His bail has been set at $500,000. Investigators have described him as neither cooperative nor forthcoming.
Meanwhile, the other person in custody, 25-year-old Jessica Lynn Lopez, is being charged with Killgore’s murder. Investigators told ABC News that a supposed suicide note in Killgore’s room led them to her body at Lake Skinner. They have not explained what led them to Lopez, who they apprehended Tuesday in a San Diego motel room, or what her connection is to Killgore and Perez.
According to ABC, Lopez was found with self-inflicted lacerations to her face and was taken to a hospital before being transported to jail.
Investigators have confirmed that Killgore had filed for divorce just last week from her husband, 22-year-old Lance Corporal Cory Killgore. Neighbors told reporters that she was dating other men, and on March 25 she listed herself as “single” on her Facebook page.
Like his fellow Marine Perez, Corporal Killgore was based at Camp Pendleton, but he had been fighting overseas in Afghanistan when his wife went missing. He is not considered a suspect in his wife’s death. A Marine spokesman said he is flying home and is due back later this week.