The defense strategy for three defendants accused in the brutal, sadistic killing of a 22-year-old Fallbrook, California, woman appears to be taking shape.
The defense attorney for Jessica Lynn Lopez is painting her client as the scapegoat for this crime - a sex slave who was only doing what she was told.
Defense attorneys for the other two defendants, however, are portraying Lopez as the sole bad actor who suffers from severe schizophrenia and muliple personality disorder.
Louis Ray Perez's lawyer, Brad Patton, said during his opening remarks that Lopez was jealous of Killgore. He said she saw her as a threat to the conditions in the Fallbrok home where she lived as a slave to the other defendants.
Prosecutors say the three defendants, Perez, Lopez and Dorothy Maraglino, conspired to kidnap, torture and sexually assault Killgore for their own sadistic pleasure because they enjoy inflicting pain on others.
More than three years after a Marine wife was found dead in a dirt field in Riverside County, California, the three people accused in her death are facing a jury.
Brittany Killgore, 22, the estranged wife of a U.S. Marine was preparing to move close to family when she became the victim of kidnapping, torture and murder, prosecutors say.
The case grabbed headlines and attention because of several shocking elements.
There was the short text message "Help" sent from the victim's phone the night she disappeared.
Then there are the defendants – a Marine and his servant and slave who are accused of playing a deadly game of bondage and sadomasochism – all of whose attorneys say their clients didn't kill Kilgore and implicated one or both of the other defendants.
All three defense attorneys admitted their clients participate in BDSM, but characterized it as consensual play activity and asked the jury to keep an open mind about their alternative lifestyle.
There's also a suicide note entered into evidence that claims the victim was disposed of in a style similar to that of TV's serial killer "Dexter."
As jurors gathered to hear opening statements Monday, the prosecution revealed for the first time what investigators believe happened to the young Marine wife, last seen alive on April 13, 2012.
She was in the process of moving from her Fallbrook home when she agreed to go on a dinner cruise with an acquaintance, investigators say.
A friend testified at a pretrial hearing that Killgore agreed to go only because she was promised help moving in exchange.
Four days later, Killgore's nude body was found in a dirt field near Lake Skinner in Winchester, California.
An autopsy report unsealed last month said Killgore was strangled and there was evidence she had been handcuffed. Her face and neck had two small, brown marks suggestive of “use of an electrical weapon,” and her wrist and left knee had a large wound “suggestive of attempted dismemberment,” the autopsy states.
Master, Servant and Slave
Marine Sgt. Louis Ray Perez, Jessica Lynn Lopez, and Dorothy Maraglino lived in a home on East Fallbrook Street that had a room set up to be an apparent sex dungeon, according to search warrants.
Those documents said the three defendants had told investigators they were involved in sexual activities that included master, servant and slave role-playing.
In his opening statements, C. Bradley Patton, Perez's defense attorney, told the court that that night, Perez walked into his house and saw Lopez — his sex slave — gripping a knife with a blank expression on her face. Killgore was dead on the table.
Patton claims Lopez, who he said suffers from schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder, killed her out of jealousy.
But Lopez's attorney has a different story, calling her client the scapegoat who was only doing as she was told. She said there was no evidence found in the defendants' home that shows Killgore was killed in Fallbrook.
Patton admitted Perez did drive Killgore's body to Lake Skinner to dump it.
The attorney for Maraglino said her client is only guilty of lying and covering up for those she loves.
One of the first witnesses to testify lived in the home with the three defendants, acting as a sex slave. She described in detail the types of activities the suspects would do, inflicting great pain on each other for enjoyment. She said everything she did — from what she ate to what she said outside the home — was controlled by Perez and Maraglino.
Items removed from their shared house included plastic and wooden whips and crops, leather restraints, a ball gag, a leather collar, zip ties, various ropes and cords, swords, a machete, black spiked gloves and a black knife labeled “The Black Defender.”
A stun baton was also found during the investigation, the warrants said in 2012.
When Lopez was arrested, investigators found a suicide note that included graphic details describing how she had tried to dispose of Killgore’s body like “Dexter,” the serial killer character on the TV series by the same name, warrants said.
If convicted on all charges, each of the three defendants could face 25 years to life in prison.