A preliminary hearing began Monday morning for three suspects accused of killing a 22-year-old Marine wife last spring.
Fallbrook resident Brittany Killgore was reported missing in April 2012. Four days later, her body was found nude and mutilated in a ditch at Borel Road and Arosa Street near Lake Skinner.
Court documents later determined Killgore had been strangled to death. She also had injuries to her wrist and leg that court documents stated were “consistent with someone using a tool such as a saw [sic] an attempt at dismembering her.”
Court documents revealed Killgore – who had recently filed for divorce from her estranged Marine husband, Cory Killgore, who was deployed in Afghanistan -- had been an unwilling participant in a deadly sex game, allegedly at the hands of three suspects practicing a sadomasochistic lifestyle.
Camp Pendleton Marine Sgt. Louis Perez, 46, was arrested in suspicion of Killgore’s murder, as well as Dorothy Grace Marie Maraglino, 37, and Jessica Lynn Lopez, 25. All three were charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy, kidnapping and torture in connection with Killgore’s death.
The three defendants pleaded not guilty.
Investigators said all three suspects lived together in Fallbrook at one point, at a home on East Fallbrook Street. That residence was searched by investigators, who found a room in the home that was set up to be an apparent sex dungeon, court documents stated. The suspects were allegedly involved in sexual behavior that included bondage, torture and master/slave role playing.
On April 13, 2012, investigators say Perez allegedly invited Killgore to a dinner cruise in San Diego. Minutes after he picked her up, Killgore sent a text message from her cell phone to a friend that read “HELP.”
Killgore’s phone would later be found in downtown San Diego, after a homeless man attempted to sell it to a stranger on the street.
Prosecutors said Perez allegedly took Killgore to his Fallbrook home on April 13 and then had Maraglino and Lopez join them, luring the Marine wife into a deadly trap.
Killgore’s body was found on April 17, 2012, near Lake Skinner.
Nearly one year after Killgore’s murder, Perez, Maraglino and Lopez were all present in court Monday morning for a preliminary hearing that is expected to last five days. A judge is expected to hear grisly details of Killgore's murder throughout the hearing.
Ultimately, the hearing will determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the three defendants to stand trial.
On Monday, several witnesses took the stand inside a Vista courtroom including Killgore’s friend, Channy Tal, who spent time with Killgore on the day of her disappearance.
Tal is the friend Killgore texted "HELP" to on the night of April 13.
During her time on the stand on Monday, Tal said she had helped Killgore pack on April 13 because Killgore was moving back to Pennsylvania.
Tal said she remembered Perez stopping by Killgore’s home that evening and begging Killgore to go to a dinner cruise with him.
Tal said Killgore did not feel comfortable with Perez’s invitation, and did not want to go. Tal said Killgore ended up agreeing to go only after Perez promised he’d get five people to her her move the next day.
“He was having a conversation with Brittany, he was inviting her to go to the dinner cruise; she didn’t want to go. He was very persistent about it,” said Tal on the stand.
Killgore went missing that night.
Elizabeth Hernandez, who says she was Killgore’s best friend, also testified in court.
Hernandez said she and another friend of Killgore’s went to authorities the day after the Marine wife went missing.
Hernandez said she and Killgore befriended Perez, Maraglino and Lopez after Hernandez bought a fertility monitor from Maraglino.
Hernandez testified that Maraglino told them that she and Lopez had a sex-slave dominatrix relationship, and that Perez was the "master" of the house that the three defendants shared in Fallbrook.
Hernandez said the women would often walk around naked and that Maraglino would allegedly force Lopez to eat her food out of dog bowls.
Hernandez said both she and Killgore respected the group’s lifestyle choices, but that neither of them ever participated in their practices.
In addition to Tal and Hernandez, two women who were part of that sadomasochistic lifestyle also took the stand.
Those two women described how Lopez, Maraglino and Perez wanted to recruit Killgore and Hernandez into their lifestyle.
Killgore's husband, Cory, sat in the gallery during Monday’s preliminary hearing. Killgore's parents were also in attendance, at times weeping and shaking their heads as the salacious details of their daughter's murder case unfolded in the courtroom.
If convicted, all three defendants could face 25 years to life in prison in connection with Killgore's murder.