VISTA — A 45-year-old Camp Pendleton Marine pleaded not guilty in court April 26 to murder charges for the death of another local Marine’s wife, 22-year-old Brittany Killgore of Fallbrook.Superior Court Judge Kimberlee Lagotta held Staff Sgt. Louis Ray Perez, the defendant, on $3 million bail.
Jessica Lynn Lopez, 25, was the first suspect arrested in connection with Killgore’s disappearance, and she was booked on a first-degree murder charge on April 17 by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, four days after the young military wife went missing.
She is also being held on $3 million bail.
Lopez was arrested at a Point Loma hotel after an alleged botched suicide attempt led authorities to a note that led them to a body, according to previous reports.
The body was located on the evening of April 17 in a rural area of Riverside County near Lake Skinner and later identified as Killgore’s.
During Perez’ arraignment, his attorney Jeff Reichert said that the note found in the Point Loma motel room where Lopez was arrested exonerates his client because Lopez indicates that she had killed Brittany Killgore, and Perez had nothing to do with it.
Killgore had filed for a divorce just a week before her disappearance, according to court records. She was married to Cory Killgore, who was in Afghanistan on duty and allowed to return home following his wife’s disappearance.
Prosecutors said that on the night Killgore went missing she had plans to go out with Perez and another woman, but the woman cancelled the plans to go out.
During that same night, Killgore sent a text message to a friend saying she needed help and was in distress, Deputy District Attorney Patrick Espinoza said at the arraignment.
Authorities subsequently made contact with Perez, who told police he dropped Killgore off in downtown San Diego, yet it was learned he had actually been in Fallbrook during the specific time period in question.
Espinoza said that a search of Perez’ vehicle turned up the victim’s blood and a weapon.
Perez was already in custody at the time of the murder charge arraignment. He was being held for charges he pleaded not guilty to during the previous week of possession of an assault weapon and receiving stolen property.
According to prosecutors, Perez possessed the assault rifle from Feb. 1 until April 14 — the latter date being the day after Killgore went missing and the day Perez was arrested for the possession charge and for receiving stolen property.
He was ordered held on the high bail amount of $500,000 because the judge said at that time he was also a suspect in a murder investigation and could be a flight risk.
Defense attorney Jeff Reichert said Perez is married, has been employed in the military for 16 years and has lived in San Diego County for a long time.
Lopez was his roommate.
Both defendants can face up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted on the murder charges.
They each are expected back in court on May 10 for a readiness conference and a preliminary hearing is set for May 30.
Cory Killgore issued a statement to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, which was released April 26.
“My wife Brittany, was beautiful beyond words and her murder has left me devastated. My duty to her memory is now to ensure her good reputation remains intact, and help law enforcement and prosecutors secure justice for the person, or persons who took her away from me.
“Brittany’s death cannot be in vain — at this point, I don’t know how to use this tragedy for good, but others have found their way and I hope to do the same. Brittany meant too much to do any less.
“As my father-in-law said, please honor my wife’s name and don’t succumb to salacious gossip and rumor. Brittany was a beautiful, good person, who did not deserve this. Thank you.”