A High Desert woman who was questioned as part of the search for a missing Marine wife has insisted that detectives exaggerated her statements in court documents, twisting her words to shift suspicion onto the neighbors of the missing woman.
Isabel Megli, owner of the White Rock Horse Rescue Ranch in Yucca Valley, said Friday that she never told detectives that Nichole Lee said police had "missed something" when they searched her garage. Megli said several other statements attributed to her by detectives were taken out of context.
"They put a spin on it," Megli told The Desert Sun. "I'm am not going to say I didn't say it, but it definitely wasn't the whole of what I said."
Megli is one of numerous people who have been questioned as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Erin Corwin, 20, a pregnant Marine wife who vanished in Twentynine Palms one month ago. Corwin was last seen on June 28, when she told her husband, Jonathan, that she was headed to Joshua Tree National Park. Jonathan Corwin reported her missing the following day, and police found her empty car one day after that.
Since Corwin vanished, High Desert law enforcement have combed the desert for clues. The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department has also used warrants to search Corwin's on-base apartment and the apartment of their neighbors, Christopher and Nichole Lee. Deputies also searched the horse ranch, where the Lee couple stayed for a few days after moving out of their apartment in early July.
In order to justify the search of this ranch, the sheriff's department had to file an affidavit at the Joshua Tree courthouse, detailing the inter-workings of the Corwin investigation. That affidavit revealed the investigators have to come to focus on Christopher Lee, an ex-Marine who may have been having an affair with the missing woman.
According to a search warrant affidavit, Corwin had planned to take a hunting trip with Lee on the day she disappeared. Sometime after Corwin left with Lee, her cell phone shut off. Detectives said in the court affidavit it is "highly likely" she may have been shot.
It was this same affidavit that included comments by Megli, which cast suspicion on the Lee couple. According to the affidavit, Megli told detectives that:
• Nichole Lee said she was concerned her husband did not have an alibi and would "not be able to keep his lies straight."
• Nichole Lee said that detectives did not have a case "without a body," and that "detectives would never find the body."
• And that police had "missed something" while searching Lee's apartment because they did not search the garage.
When interviewed by The Desert Sun on Friday, Megli said the first two statements were misconstrued by detectives who wrote the affidavit. Nichole Lee made these statements while chatting casually at the horse ranch, discussing the Corwin disappearance and similar mysteries, comparing them to the clichès of television crime drama.
Megli said Nichole Lee was worried her husband would accidentally incriminate himself — even if he hadn't done anything wrong — if he was grilled by detectives.
Finally, Megli insisted that Nichole Lee never said police "missed something" in the garage, but actually remarked that police had simply not searched the garage at all. Nichole Lee was thankful police skipped the garage because the couple had packed their belongings in preparation to move out of the apartment, and deputies would have torn through the packaging during the search.
There was no conversation about a clue being missed, Megli said.
"I never said that," Megli said Friday. "If I would have heard that there was 'something' in the garage, don't you think I would have called the police?"
It is unclear if the sheriff's department actually searched the Lees' garage or not. The search warrant for the apartment did give deputies authority to search the garage.
The sheriff's department has repeatedly declined to comment on the search warrants or the contents of the affidavit.