The body of Erin Corwin, a pregnant 19-year-old Oak Ridge native who had been missing in southern California since late June, was found 140 feet down a mine shaft on Saturday, authorities said Monday.
Corwin’s body, found with the help of video equipment at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday, was identified at 9:30 p.m. Sunday using dental records, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said.
A half-hour later, at 10 p.m. Sunday, Christopher Brandon Lee was arrested in Anchorage, Alaska, for the murder of Corwin, the Sheriff’s Department said. An autopsy has determined the death was a homicide.
The Desert Sun of Palm Springs, California, said Lee is a 24-year-old ex-Marine who lived next to Erin and her husband, Marine Corporal Jonathan Corwin, who is also from Oak Ridge, at a desert base in Twentynine Palms, California. Detectives believe that Lee and Erin Corwin were having an affair, and that Lee may have been afraid that his wife Nichole would discover his infidelity, the newspaper said.
Corwin vanished June 28 after telling her husband that she was going to Joshua Tree National Park south of Twentynine Palms.
Authorities and volunteers have searched more than 300 square miles of desert and several bodies of water in the nearly eight weeks since then—including Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Base, and areas covered by the Bureau of Land Management. Nearly 5,000 volunteer hours were dedicated to the search, and aerial searches identified more than 100 mine shafts and numerous bodies of water that were searched by the Technical Cave and Mind Teams and Specialized Dive Teams, the Sheriff’s Department said.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See the Desert Sun story for more information.
See previous stories on Oak Ridge Today here.